The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions is scheduled to consider the Women’s Health Bill tomorrow without an important provision providing funds for research on uterine fibroids. Senate Bill 2122, also known as the Uterine Fibroids Research and Education Act of 2002; which was introduced in Congress in April by Senators Jean Carnahan (D-MO), Jim Jeffords (I-VT), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD); was not included in the committee chair’s markup of the Women’s Health Bill.
The Uterine Fibroids bill would increase funding for research on uterine fibroids and public education about treatment options to $10 million. Currently, funding at the National Institutes of Health for fibroids and endometriosis is only $3 million, while research into urinary tract infections is almost $15 million. “It may be swept under the rug completely unless we take drastic action today to make our voices heard loud and clear,” Carla Dionne, executive director of the National Uterine Fibroids Foundation, said in an e-mail. “We need the Uterine Fibroids Bill to be offered as an amendment to the Women’s Health Bill.”
Uterine fibroids are a common affliction for women – 30 to 70 percent of all women are estimated to have uterine fibroids – particularly women in their 30s and 40s and African American women. Hysterectomy has been the most common treatment for uterine fibroids; about 600,000 hysterectomies are performed each year to treat fibroids – in which surgeons remove both the fibroids and the entire uterus. However, other treatments that leave the uterus intact are available but not widely known or researched, including myomectomy, which surgically removes the fibroids, and uterine artery embolization which blocks blood flow to fibroids, causing them to shrink.
The Feminist Majority Foundation has launched a major campaign to increase NIH funding and clinical trials on mifepristone (also known as RU486 or the early abortion pill) as a treatment for a number of serious gynecological conditions, including uterine fibroid tumors.