A recent U.S. study published in the medical literature described the effects of the ‘morning after’ progesterone contraceptive in shrinking fibroid tumors. While the drug is still experimental, this could be a welcome addition to help treat a problem affecting 40% of women over the age of 40, and the cause of nearly 500,000 hysterectomies and fibroid removal surgeries performed each year in the United States.
We don’t know what causes fibroid tumors to grow in the uterus. We do know that fibroids are stimulated by estrogen. Women have two periods in their reproductive lives when fibroids will undergo ”growth spurts.” First, during pregnancy, fibroids will often grow with rising estrogen levels. Second, in the years leading up to the menopause, when estrogen is not produced any longer by the ovaries, the menstrual cycle is dominated by estrogen.
So it is reasonable to expect that any hormone which is an ‘anti-estrogen’ such as progesterone will decrease the growth of fibroids. In some cases, fibroids will shrink, temporarily under the influence of progesterone. We have know for years that intra-uterine devices [IUDs] containing progesterone can decrease the size of fibroid tumors. So can depo-lupron injections which create an artificial menopause while the hormone is in the blood stream. These hormones have side effects ranging from spotting to decreased sex drive, oily skin, and hot flashes which cause many women to stop taking the pills or injections. When the medicine is out of the system, fibroids regain their normal growth pattern, and may enter a period of accelerated growth!
“We believe that progesterone works by decreasing the size of the blood vessels feeding fibroids. On the other hand, Uterine artery embolization [UAE] permanently blocks the blood supply to fibroids,” according to Bruce McLucas, MD, founder of the Fibroid Treatment Collective, and Assistant Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of California, Los Angeles. McLucas introduced UAE to the U.S. in 1994. Since then, the FTC has treated more than 5,000 women from all over the world. Many have gone on to have successful pregnancies. Embolization is an outpatient treatment allowing women to retain their fertility and return to work in a few days, rather than the months required to recover from major surgery. In addition, compared to myomectomy, the surgery where fibroids are removed and the uterus preserved, UAE allows women to breathe freely, knowing this procedure permanently treats fibroids without the risk of future recurrence,” McLucas adds.