A non-surgical treatment for uterine fibroids shows promise as an effective method for shrinking the non-cancerous tumors, and could one day help women with this condition retain their fertility, according to preliminary research presented June 30, 2010, before an annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.
In two studies, researchers from the US tested a drug called ulipristal acetate, which blocks ovulation and is used as a form of emergency contraception (prescribed under the brand name ellaOne). The drug works by adjusting the body's reaction to the hormone progesterone. After being given either the drug or a placebo, researchers found that women taking the drug were more likely to see their fibroids shrink, with women on the highest doses of the drug seeing their fibroids diminish the most in size.
These findings show that the drug "is an effective non-invasive treatment for fibroids that can help maintain fertility in women whose only option up to now was to have surgery," says Dr. Lynnette Nieman, a principal investigator with the studies, in a news release issued by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (via HealthDay). This new research is part of the Food and Drug Administration's Phase II, the second in three phases of research required before the federal government will approve a drug for a specific use.
How do you know if you have fibroids? According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of uterine fibroids include heavy menstrual bleeding, prolonged menstrual periods—seven days or more of menstrual bleeding, pelvic pressure or pain, frequent urination, difficulty emptying your bladder, constipation, and backache or leg pains.
Fibroids may go unnoticed by many women and in most cases, will shrink naturally during menopause (when estrogen levels begin to fall). But for some women, fibroids may lead to an increased risk for miscarriage—especially if the fibroids are submucosal, or embedded in the uterine lining. Fibroids are also a leading cause for hysterectomy in the US.