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Uterine fibroids affect one out of every four women. They are a major cause of problems for reproductive age women and a major reason women need to have hysterectomies. Treatment options are limited and ultimately, surgeries are still the dominate treatment for this disease. But more options may be just around the corner.
In the Feb. 2, 2010, issue of New England Journal of Medicine, Ebbie Stewart, M.D., Mayo Clinic obstetrician, provides an editorial about a possible new medical treatment for uterine fibroids based on two studies published in the same issue. Donnez et al. report that progesterone-receptor modulators, drugs that influence the response to the ovarian hormone progesterone, are effective in treating uterine fibroids much better than a placebo or no treatment at all and equivalent to a GnRH agonist, but without the significant side effects. Dr. Stewart explains that GnRH agonists often cause women to feel like they are going through menopause and they also can contribute to bone loss.
Dr. Stewart says the progesterone-receptor modulators appear to be safe treatments and with both of these studies together, there is exciting news that there may be approved medical treatments for fibroids, ones that can be taken as a pill on a daily basis and give women both decreased menstrual bleeding and decrease the size of the fibroids.
Until more medical therapies become available, interventional therapies such as ultrasound artery embolization and focused ultrasound surgery have proven to be effective alternatives to hysterectomies. Dr. Stewart encourages women to educate themselves about their treatment options and to ask questions about alternatives to hysterectomies.