March 6, 2002
Women Largely Unaware of a Major
Advancement in Women's Health; For Many Women, a Minimally Invasive
Procedure Could Make Hysterectomies a Thing of the Past
Society of Cardiovascular & Interventional
Radiology Launches National Public Education Campaign on Uterine Fibroid
While two-thirds of American women (66%) are generally knowledgeable about
uterine fibroids -- benign tumors that are one of the most common medical
conditions experienced by women ages 35 - 50 and a leading cause of
hysterectomy -- only 1 percent of those women know about one of the most
significant developments in the treatment of uterine fibroids, according to
results of a national survey of women released today by the Society of
Cardiovascular & Interventional Radiology (SCVIR). This treatment, called
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE), gives women an important,
minimally-invasive treatment option to hysterectomy and other invasive
surgeries. With less risk and less pain.
UFE is performed by interventional radiologists, doctors who specialize in
targeted, image-guided treatments. By blocking the blood flow to the
fibroids and causing them to shrink, the treatment is approximately ninety
percent successful in alleviating the heavy bleeding and painful periods
that are associated with them. "Uterine fibroid embolization is giving women
choices. After proper consultation with physicians, now they can make that
choice," says Dr. James Spies, vice-chairman, department of radiology,
Georgetown University Hospital.
Hysterectomy, a surgical procedure performed by gynecologists to remove the
uterus, historically has been the predominant therapy for fibroids.
Sixty-two percent of the women who said they were familiar with uterine
fibroids could correctly identify one or more of its symptoms and 62 percent
identified surgery or hysterectomy as the treatment for fibroids. Only 1
percent named uterine fibroid embolization as a treatment.
Women turned to their gynecologist (OB-GYN) or primary care physician to
seek treatment for fibroids with 71 percent reporting that the first
physician they saw for the problem was an OB/GYN, 19 percent talked to their
primary care physician and 4 percent to their internist. Among these women
with fibroids, 49 percent did not seek treatment from any other physician.
When asked what other types of physicians they saw, 23 percent said they saw
an OB-GYN, 6 percent saw a primary care physician, and 1 percent saw an
National Public Education Campaign to Raise Awareness
Although Uterine Fibroid Embolization is widely available throughout the
United States and covered by most major insurance carriers, few women know
about this treatment option. That is why the Society of Cardiovascular &
Interventional Radiology is launching a national public education campaign
to ensure that women know about their options. The print public service
announcements will run in consumer publications, newspapers and medical
journals. A radio announcement also will air.
"Most women with symptomatic fibroids are candidates for UFE and should
obtain a consult with an interventional radiologist to determine whether UFE
is a treatment option for them," says Dr. Robert Vogelzang, chief of
interventional radiology, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and professor of
radiology, Northwestern University Medical School. "UFE is a major
advancement in the treatment of fibroids that is widely available across the
country and covered by most major insurance carriers. Because it is
minimally invasive, it involves less risk, less pain and a shorter recovery
time than open surgical procedures."
While the patient is conscious, but sedated, the interventional radiologist
makes a tiny incision (less than one-eighth of an inch) in the groin and
inserts a tiny catheter into the artery. The catheter is guided through the
artery under x-ray imaging to the uterus. The interventional radiologist
then injects tiny particles the size of grains of sand into the artery that
is supplying blood to the tumor to cut off the blood flow, or embolize it.
UFE usually requires a hospital stay of one night. Many women resume light
activities in a few days and the majority of women are able to return to
normal activities within one week. This is dramatically shorter that the
recovery time for open hysterectomy which includes 3 to 4 days in the
hospital and a 6-week recovery time.
Between 10 to 20 percent of women who have fibroids require treatment
because of symptoms ranging from heavy, prolonged menstrual periods that can
lead to anemia, pain, pressure and an enlarged abdomen resembling pregnancy.
Overall, 17 percent of the women familiar with fibroids said they have or
have had fibroids. More than half of the women (57 percent) who reported
having fibroids ranked them as highly problematic, giving them a 4 or 5 on a
5-point scale with 1 being the least and 5 being the most problematic.
Uterine fibroids are a major public health issue and the most frequent
indication for hysterectomy in pre-menopausal women. Of the 600,000
hysterectomies performed annually in the United States, 1/3 of these are due
to fibroids. Twenty to 40 percent of women age 35 and older have uterine
fibroids of a significant size. African American women are at a higher risk
for fibroids: as many as 50 percent have fibroids of a significant size.
Uterine fibroids are very common non-cancerous (benign) growths that develop
in the muscular wall of the uterus. They can range in size from very tiny (a
quarter of an inch) to larger than a cantaloupe. Occasionally, they can
cause the uterus to grow to the size of a five-month pregnancy. In most
cases, there is more than one fibroid in the uterus.
Depending on the size, location and number of fibroids, they may cause:
* Heavy, prolonged menstrual periods and unusual monthly bleeding,
sometimes with clots. This can lead to anemia.
* Pelvic pain and pressure
* Pain in the back and legs
* Pain during sexual intercourse
* Bladder pressure leading to a frequent urge to urinate
* Pressure on the bowel, leading to constipation and bloating
* Abnormally enlarged abdomen
For more information on uterine fibroids, UFE, or to find an interventional
radiologist in your area, women can visit the SCVIR web site at http://www.uterinefibroids.org/
SCVIR is the professional society of interventional radiologists --
physicians who specialize in minimally invasive, targeted treatments
performed under guided imaging. Interventional radiology procedures are
generally easier for the patient than open surgery because they involve less
risk, less pain, and shorter recovery time and hospital stays.
The Uterine Fibroid Awareness Survey was conducted by Opinion Research
Corporation, Princeton, N.J., on behalf of SCVIR, the professional society
of interventional radiologists (IRs). The survey was fielded in early
February 2002. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3 percent at the 95
percent confidence level.