Barely a year after High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) entered the nation’s medical space for the treatment of uterine fibroids and adenomyosis through bloodless surgery, more than 100 women have since treated and their fibroids and adenomyosis were successfully removed.
This success is encouraging many more women, especially those who may be afraid of open surgeries (invasive surgery), to opt for HIFU treatment in the country even as stakeholders call for the spread of the treatment center across the country for accessibility.
Celina Esowe, a resident of Lagos State, is one of the women celebrating the first anniversary of HIFU procedure for the treatment of uterine fibroids in West Africa.
The woman, who had a phobia of open surgery, later found this technique a perfect option for her disease and advises other fibroid patients to opt for the no-cut procedure after her successful surgery.
As part of the outreach, Esowe spoke to The Guardian about her experiences.
“I used to suffer from severe menstrual pain and cramps with painful discharge as well as large blood clots. an alternative to open surgery, which I was afraid of.
She said she discovered HIFU treatment on Facebook when she was looking for solutions and became interested in it because she felt a technology would one day provide another way to treat fibroids without open surgery.
“So when I saw HIFU, I wasn’t scared because I expected it. Finally, when I came in contact with the expert, and with so many teachings about HIFU, I was impatient and prayed to successfully go through it to get rid of the fibroid. There were no challenges for me because I wasn’t married yet.
“So I went for the surgery after being carefully prepared by the professionals. Since I had the surgery there have been huge positive changes. My menstrual period is normal now with less pain and no blood clots. No more pelvic pain. I don’t have to skip work because of periods. I’m more relaxed now. I’m more confident now.
“The technology is superb, very simple and safe, and I recommend every woman with fibroids to have it instead of open surgery. I have gone through the process and it is very safe and quick. No cutting or transfusion No scars either.
“My life now is a testimony. A few months after the operation, I am already feeling better and the symptoms have diminished. Although I had little discomfort, I’m doing great now. I hope to have my children soon.
“Technology (HIFU) is a gift from God for every woman. You just lie on your stomach while the machine locates and kills the tumor using ultrasound waves. It works like magic. One minute you’re down and the next minute you’re up again, old symptoms disappearing one by one,” Esowe explained.
Following the success of the non-invasive surgery, stakeholders across the country and in the Diaspora are celebrating the first anniversary of its introduction in Nigeria. Stakeholders who have witnessed testimonials of the impact of this treatment method desire the establishment of specialized HIFU centers across the country to serve as venues where all treatments related to fibroid and adenomyosis would be successfully administered .
HIFU is a bloodless or non-invasive surgery for the treatment of fibroids and adenomyosis. It uses real-time ultrasound and high-intensity ultrasound waves to generate localized heat to specifically target individual fibroids and destroy cells.
Using this method of treatment, in conjunction with image guidance, the physician will be able to heat and destroy fibrous tissue without damaging nearby tissue or tissue through which the beam passes on its way to the target.
Patricia Omoke was diagnosed with fibroids in 2018, despite living with them for a long time. She used to have heavy and prolonged bleeding before receiving free HIFU treatment which ended her painful experience.
“Before, my period was accompanied by cramps, which prevented me from doing certain things every time, because I had to fight heavy bleeding. When I went to the hospital to find out the cause, I was told Said I had fibroids. I was asked to prepare for open surgery but I was scared. I was hoping for a miracle.
“From the first ultrasound, I started looking for a solution because I didn’t want surgery. I took supplements while searching online for an alternative treatment method. Last year, I learned about this procedure on social networks. I requested treatment at a center and did the first ultrasound. It was confirmed fibroid.
“I finally went for treatment on June 25, 2021. I can’t forget this experience. I was very nervous, being the first person. At the time I signed the consent form, I put my trust in God and went through the preparation process.
“I didn’t even know when the procedure was done. In fact, I was asking one of the workers when the procedure would start. I had been made to understand that I had to be prepared for a temperature of 60 degrees or more and prepared for it, only to be told the procedure was complete and successful.
“I couldn’t believe it but I was so happy. It was a wonderful experience. The fibroid did not come out, there was no such thing as cutting or scratching, the fibroid is killed by heat and over time. The dead fibroid is evacuated or absorbed by the body, depending on its position. The one in the system is passed out, while the one in the muscle is absorbed into the system. I had no complications.
“After the operation, I noticed that the persistent back pain I was feeling was gone. As soon as I got up from the table, I discovered that I no longer felt the pain. The second thing was that I didn’t I no longer felt the fibroid itself. I no longer feel it when breathing and there is no discoloration on my skin from the laser.
The Guardian discovered that this technique was first introduced in 2002 at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom (UK). Since then, it has spread to more than 28 countries and regions, successfully treating more than 150,000 cases of benign and malignant tumors.
With the introduction of the HIFU treatment system in Nigeria, women with mild uterine diseases are treated without incision, without bleeding and non-invasively, and their uterus and fertility are preserved.
A Consultant and Surgeon at Epe General Hospital, Epe, Lagos, Dr Cynthia Okafor, recounted the case of a patient who was dressed and carried into the theater for open surgery to remove fibroids but jumped out of the couch seeing the surgical equipment, screaming that she was going to die.
“Since March 12, 2016, when the woman ran away from the hospital, she has been bleeding and is not yet pregnant. She’s hoping for a miracle and I’m praying she finds one. Hers is huge and she can’t have a baby except by some miracle,” the surgeon said.
However, hope is rekindled for the likes of this scared patient with the arrival on board of this technology for the treatment of fibroids.
The Journal of Advances in Medicine and Medical Research reported that the prevalence of infertility ranged from 20% to 25% among couples across Nigeria in 2018. It was ranked 5th in the world for serious disabilities, with the prevalence ranging from around 6% to more than 16% in countries around the world.
Here in Lagos, the establishment has catered to women from all works of life. The team said they are thrilled every time a woman walks into the facility with fibroids and/or adenomyosis and walks out hours later without the torment of her illness.
“The relief we see on their faces makes us happy that the investment we have made in this area of uterine fibroid management is bringing relief to our women who would normally have been afraid of open surgery and may have decided to live their life with the pain, discomfort and loss of blood. We have saved many women from the risk of blood transfusion, anesthesia and lost working hours,” said Consultant Ostertrician/Gynecologist, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi .
Ajayi praised the technology, saying the center had saved many women from the risk of blood transfusions, anesthesia and lost work hours.
“It is a call for us to reach out to more women living in Nigeria and the West Africa sub-region to benefit from HIFU and improve the quality of their lives despite the realities medical practice is facing, including rising energy costs, skyrocketing foreign exchange rates and the myriad of infrastructural challenges in the country,” he said.
“We are more determined to focus our attention on expanding our scope of business to cover other locations in Nigeria. It is a call to service. This means we are committed to working tirelessly to help more women access technology to treat fibroids,” he added.