Many U.S. Women Unaware of Fibroid Treatments

Hysterectomy isn't the only choice, radiology experts say

By Randy Dotinga

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 29, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Many American women with uterine fibroids don't know there's a minimally invasive embolization technique that may be an alternative to a hysterectomy, a new poll finds.

"Misperceptions about uterine fibroids and the treatments available often lead women to undergo invasive and potentially unnecessary surgery for their fibroids, despite more than 20 years of clinical use supporting uterine fibroid embolization," said Dr. James Spies.

Spies, a professor of radiology at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., is a former president of the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR). That group commissioned the online Harris Poll survey of almost 1,200 women.

Radiologists perform uterine fibroid embolization (UFE) to treat tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus. These tumors are usually benign, according to the U.S. Office on Women's Health.

Radiologists guide a catheter through an artery to the blood supply of a fibroid. Once at the fibroid's blood supply, the radiologist releases small particles to block the blood vessels that nourish the fibroid, the researchers explained.

The treatment has a high success rate, SIR says. About nine out of 10 women who have uterine fibroid embolization have significant improvement. Many women report their symptoms disappear completely.

The study found that:

  • Fifty-seven percent of women don't think they face any risk of uterine fibroids.
  • Forty-four percent of women diagnosed with uterine fibroids weren't aware of uterine fibroid embolization.
  • Among women diagnosed with uterine fibroids who have heard about embolization, 46 percent didn't first learn about it from their obstetrician-gynecologist.
  • Nearly three-quarters of women who knew about the treatment first heard about it from someone other than their obstetrician-gynecologist. They heard about embolization from family and friends, their personal research and advertising.
  • One in five women thinks there's no treatment for fibroids other than hysterectomy.

Dr. Janice Newsome is the associate division director of interventional radiology and image-guided medicine at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

She said, "It is remarkable that 62 percent of women are unaware of UFE and that one in five women [20 percent] believe the only treatment is hysterectomy. Uterine preservation should be an important goal of therapy for fibroids. Yet many women seem unaware of safe and effective treatment options apart from hysterectomy."

Dr. Suresh Vedantham is president of the Society of Interventional Radiology. He's also a professor of radiology and surgery at Washington University in St. Louis.

"Physicians need to ensure that women are presented every option for treatment so that patients can make the decision that is right for them," Vedantham said.

"Uterine fibroid embolization is an example of an image-guided therapy that has improved the standard of care and quality of life for many women, allowing a minimally invasive treatment with a shorter recovery time, less pain and risk of complications than traditional surgeries for uterine fibroids," he said.