A recent article in the Wall Street Journal looks at a new, experimental treatment for uterine fibroids, now undergoing its third phase of clinical trials. Fibroids are the most common type of non-cancerous, benign growths that occur inside or just outside of a woman’s uterus. The most common treatment for the condition is the removal of a woman’s uterus (hysterectomy).
Experts believe that most women develop fibroids, with the statistic for women with the condition hovering somewhere in the neighborhood of 70%. However, the condition doesn’t always have noticeable symptoms. Many times, a woman doesn’t find out she has these growths until she sees a fertility specialist. On the other hand, in around one-third of all cases of uterine fibroids, with the figure somewhat higher among black women, uterine fibroids grow quite large so that they cause chronic pelvic pressure or pain, bloating, and heavy and/or prolonged menstrual bleeding.
Doctors have been searching for minimally invasive treatments for the condition in the hopes they can supplant hysterectomy as the treatment of choice for fibroids. One such treatment is brand new. The treatment is called radiofrequency ablation and has already received FDA approval for the treatment of lung and liver tumors.
Participants are now being recruited for trials to be held at six medical centers within the U.S., two centers in Mexico, and one center in Guatemala. The trial aims to discover whether radiofrequency ablation can reduce the heavy menstrual bleeding caused by fibroids and improve quality of life for those women who undergo the procedure. In order to be eligible for the trials, a woman must decide she doesn’t wish to become pregnant and she must be over the age of 25.
While radiofrequency ablation is considered a minimally invasive procedure, a woman must still receive general anesthesia before treatment. Depending on how many fibroids must be treated, the procedure can take several hours to perform. Only three small incisions are necessary. A device resembling a needle is inserted into the fibroids and heat is passed through the device into the fibroids with the help of low-frequency electrical currents.
A principal investigator for the trial, Erika Banks, who is also the director of the Fibroid Center at Montefiore, says that of the 70 female participants in the tests held outside of the U.S, 90% reported they were quite satisfied with the outcome of their treatments.