Fibroid Treatment May Offer Hope for Women Who Want to Conceive
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice today underwent embolization—a non-surgical treatment to kill uterine fibroid tumors. While embolization is a good option for some patients, a less invasive option is on the horizon, as outlined this week in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The new procedure could someday replace both embolization and the even more invasive hysterectomy, especially for patients who would still like to have children after treatment, according to Dr. Ayman Al-Hendy, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and lead investigator on the study. “Patients who undergo embolization should not conceive after treatment,” Al-Hendy says. “After the tumor is killed, the particles placed in the blood vessels continue blocking blood flow to the uterus, which could lead to miscarriages or even birth defects.”
Al-Hendy and his colleagues have devised a less invasive treatment, which involves stripping estrogen receptors from tumor cells. Without estrogen, these cells stop growing and eventually die. Researchers believe patients who undergo this new procedure would still be able to safely conceive.
Fibroid tumors afflict 20 to 40 percent of women over age 35 and can cause pelvic pain, complications for pregnancy and heavy menstrual bleeding. Of the 600,000 hysterectomies performed each year in the United States, one-third are due to uterine fibroid tumors. Fibroid tumors of the uterus are the most common tumors found in the female genital tract.
Al-Hendy points out that embolization is a great alternative to hysterectomy for many women. But it only helps those with few or small-sized tumors. Currently, hysterectomy is the only viable solution for women with multiple or large fibroids.
Al-Hendy and his team believe that this research could eventually lead to safe, non-surgical treatment of fibroids for nearly all women affected by these painful tumors. He predicts clinical studies will be underway in about three to four years.
Joining Al-Hendy in the study were Dr. Eun J. Lee from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Ill., and Drs. Hui Q. Wang and John A. Copland, both faculty members at UTMB.
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