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Alternative Treatments for Uterine Fibroids (Myomas)

Myoma General Information

Uterine fibroids (also known as myoma) are non-cancerous growths on the uterine wall. Uterine fibroids range in size from as small as a fingernail and grow to the size of a grapefruit before symptoms begin to manifest, prompting the patient to consult a doctor. They are fairly common; occurrence in women over the age of 30 is estimated to be about 25%. 

Some fibroids do not result in any symptoms, however, depending on the: size, quantity and location, they may exert pressure on surrounding structures and organs. Symptoms such as pain, back-ache, constipation and urinary problems may occur. In cases where uterine fibroids distort the uterine lining, abnormal vaginal bleeding develops due to menorraghia (excessively heavy periods) and metrorraghia (irregular bleeding outside of periods). 

Surgical removal of the uterus (hysterectomy) is resorted to in cases where excessive bleeding cannot be controlled. As a rule, large fibroids that produce pressure-related symptoms are usually removed. However, since fibroids occur mostly among women of childbearing age, the preservation of reproductive capacity is often a priority, making hysterectomies an unsatisfactory option. The following are alternative, non-surgical options for the treatment of uterine fibroids.
 

Alternative Treatments for Myoma
 
MR guided Focused Ultrasound Treatment (MRgFUS) for Uterine Fibroids
So far, the only non-surgical uterine fibroid treatment that is commercially approved by the FDA is MR guided Focused Ultrasound. This method uses magnetic resonance (MR) imaging to determine the location and size of the uterine fibroid. While the patient lies down on the machine, high intensity focused ultrasound waves target and destroy the uterine fibroids, without affecting any of the surrounding tissue. This method is optimal for patients because it is an out-patient procedure which involves minimal recovery time.

Laser Treatment for Myoma
Another outpatient procedure available uses lasers to shrink the uterine fibroids. In this procedure, four fine needles are placed through the skin and into the fibroid. MR imaging is also used to guide the placement of these needles. Laser fibres are then inserted into the needles, and thermal energy is introduced into the fibroid. Some side effects were reported such as urinary tract infections and minor skin burns, but these were deemed minor. Patients who underwent this procedure reported lighter and shorter periods afterwards.

Hormone Therapy
Although the cause of myoma (fibroids) has not yet been determined, there is a belief that when there is a higher level of estrogen than progesterone, fibroids occur. It is believed that uterine fibroids naturally decrease in size after menopause, when the body has stopped producing estrogen. This is the foundation of hormone therapy for uterine fibroids.

Both natural and synthetic forms of progesterone are available. Smaller fibroids can shrink upon the increase of progesterone and the decrease of estrogen. However, once the fibroids have reached a certain size, both progesterone and estrogen must be suppressed because at this stage, progesterone also contributes to fibroid growth. While hormones come in a variety the forms, such as: pills and creams, hormone injections lead to faster reaction rates. Since it has not yet been proven that the hormonal imbalance is in fact a leading cause of uterine fibroids, this is not a common treatment.

Oral Therapy
A vegetable-based substance called Indole-3-carbinol has also been claimed to yield significant results in shrinking uterine fibroids. Indole-3-carbinol is derived from Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage, this compound is touted to be effective in deactivating estradiol. This over-the-counter supplement is not a proven treatment.

Natural Treatment for Myoma
Traditional uterine fibroid treatments include the use of herbs such as vitex, red clover, wormwood, black cohosh and evening primrose. These herbs are administered as herbal teas, tinctures or compresses. They can also be used as essential oils, as in the case of evening primrose. Wong (2010) mentions a recently published animal study that used green tea extract on fibroids among a group of mice. Eight weeks of green tea extract treatment showed some significant results. However, herbal treatments are similar to the oral therapy in that they don’t remove the fibroids, but may help to control them.

Homeopathic and Holistic Treatments
In 2002, researchers published a study of women with fibroids who were put under a regimen where they received a combination of body therapy, guided imagery and traditional Chinese medicine for six months. Results indicated that 22 women included in the treatment group were found with fibroids that either decreased in size or stopped growing. The same study also had 3 women in the control group who had the same results.

Similarly, a research review about the effectiveness of acupuncture as treatment for fibroids was published in 2010. Because the proponents of the research review found that studies comparing acupuncture against other methods were not sufficiently well-designed, they were unable to conclude with any certainty whether acupuncture therapy was indeed effective.

As of the present, the use of natural methods for the treatment of uterine fibroids is unproven and hard to evaluate. If you have this condition, or even suspect that you may have, it is in your best interest to consult a medical professional promptly. The prognosis for uterine fibroids is usually positive, and improves with early detection and consultation. Also, because this condition also has genetic associations, consult your doctor if you have close family relatives who have been diagnosed already.

References:
Davis, J.L. (2002). Easier fibroid surgery: Laser procedure uses local anesthetic, no need for hospital stay. Retrieved from http://women.webmd.com/uterine-fibroids/news/20020926/easier-fibroid-surgery on 11/24/2010.
eHow (n.d.). Alternative treatments for uterine fibroids. Retrieved from http://www.ehow.com/way_5387306_alternative-treatments-uterine-fibroids.html on 11/23/2010.
Focus US (n.d.). Focused ultrasound – A safe, alternative treatment for fibroids. Retrieved from http://focusus.net/ on 11/23/2010.
InSightec (2010). Uterine fibroids treatment that is not invasive. Retrieved from http://www.uterine-fibroids.org/ on 11/23/2010.
Smeltzer, S.C. and Bare, B.G. eds., 2004. Brunner & Suddharts textbook of medical-surgical nursing, 10th ed. Wyoming: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Smith, E. (2003). Uterine fibroid tumor: Scientific frontiers in clinical medicine, A true help for the uterine fibroid tumor (myoma). Retrieved from http://www.fibroid101.com/ on 11/23/2010.
Wong, C. (2010). Uterine fibroids treatment- Alternative medicine and uterine fibroids. Retrieved from http://altmedicine.about.com/od/womensmenshealth/a/uterine_fibroids.htm on 11/23/2010.