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Thanks to UFE, Winona woman’s life changes for the better

For Kris Blanchard, low energy, extreme pain, heavy bleeding, lost sleep and nervousness were just some of the symptoms she suffered every month during her menstrual cycle. And as time passed, the symptoms were getting worse. "I honestly thought I'd just have to learn to live with them," Kris shares.

Now Kris's life has changed for the better. She attributes that to Uterine Fibroid Embolization or UFE (pronounced "you-fee"), a non-surgical procedure she underwent at Gundersen Health System. Performed by an interventional radiologist, UFE blocks the blood vessels that feed fibroid tumors in a woman's uterus. It starves the fibroids of nutrients and oxygen so they stop growing and become smaller.

"UFE gave me my freedom back," Kris claims. "This is a sensitive topic, but I'm willing to talk about it because I want to help other women."

Previously unaware, Kris learned she had fibroid tumors while discussing another health issue with Gundersen interventional radiologist Ezana Azene, MD, PhD.

Uterine fibroids are the most common, non-cancerous growths in women of child bearing age. In addition to Kris's symptoms, they can also cause constipation, urinary frequency and bloating.

Dr. Azene indicated UFE might be an option for Kris.

"I learned UFE had the best odds of both reducing the bleeding and decreasing or eliminating the pain I was experiencing," Kris says. "Short of a hysterectomy, it was also the only procedure that dealt with all the fibroids I had, not just the one they believed was causing the most discomfort."

"UFE has a much faster recovery and shorter hospital stay than a hysterectomy and other surgical options for fibroids," Dr. Azene explains. "It also doesn't leave a scar."

Kris is thankful Dr. Azene took the extra care to make her aware of the fibroids and ask how they were affecting her. She says he's played a key role in improving her quality of life.

"I can't say enough good things about Dr. Azene," she assures. "I ask a lot of questions, and he's always so helpful. I'm very comfortable with the decisions we've made together to figure out what's best for me."

In the past during her menstrual cycle, Kris rarely felt well enough to exercise. She sometimes stayed home rather than go out too; it all depended on having quick access to a restroom. Today she has normal menstrual cycles with barely any discomfort.

She summarizes, "I can do what I want when I want, and I hope sharing my story will help other women do the same."

To learn more about UFE and find out if it's right for you, contact Gundersen's Interventional Radiology department at (608) 775-2770 to schedule a consultation.

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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