New research shows that the vast majority of American women do not know that an alternative to hysterectomy is available to treat uterine fibroid tumors, but many women could benefit from this less invasive procedure. The most common treatment for uterine fibroids is hysterectomy, a surgical operation in which the uterus is removed from a woman’s body. Uterine fibroid embolization (UFE), however, can kill fibroid tumors through a relatively simple radiological procedure that requires only a small incision. UFE has been found to be as effective as hysterectomy, requires a hospital stay of only one night, and has a shorter recovery period than hysterectomy. Despite the benefits of avoiding major surgery, few gynecologists inform women of this option. In a survey of 100 patients who had undergone UFE at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, 79 percent were not told about the procedure by their gynecologists. Worse still, according to the hospital’s chief of radiology, Dr. Robert Vogelzang, “[M]ore than half were told they needed a hysterectomy to solve their problems, when, in fact, they didn’t.”
Uterine fibroid tumors are a common affliction for American women, and about 600,000 hysterectomies are performed each year. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), however, funds little research on fibroids, according to Feminist Majority Foundation Medical Director Beth Jordan, MD. NIH has also indicated its belief that hysterectomy is the “definitive treatment” for fibroids, but the agency supports few studies on alternative treatments.
The Feminist Majority Foundation has launched a major campaign to increase NIH funding and clinical trials on mifepristone (also known as “the early abortion pill”) as a treatment for a number of serious gynecological conditions, including uterine fibroid tumors. To find out more about the potential uses of mifepristone, link to “The Medical Uses of Mifepristone” on the Feminist Majority Foundation website.