Your health care provider may suggest medical treatments to reduce the symptoms of fibroids or to stop the growth of fibroids. These treatments are less invasive than surgery. However, if the medical treatments are not helpful, then surgery is often recommended. Certain medical treatments to reduce fibroid size and blood loss may be used to help the surgery succeed.
Common medical treatments for fibroids include:1
- Pain medication. Over-the-counter or prescription medication is often used for mild or occasional pain from fibroids.
- Birth control pills or other types of hormonal birth control. These medications control heavy bleeding and painful periods. However, this therapy can sometimes cause fibroids to grow larger.
- Progestin-releasing intrauterine device (IUD). The IUD, also called intrauterine contraception (IUC), reduces heavy and painful bleeding but does not treat the fibroids themselves. It is not recommended for women whose fibroids result in an extremely large uterine cavity.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists (GnRHa). These medications block the body from making the hormones that cause women to ovulate and have their periods. The medications also reduce the size of fibroids. Because this treatment can cause side effects that mimic the symptoms of menopause (such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness) and bone loss (which weakens the bones), it is not meant for long-term use. Most of the time, these medications are used for a short time to reduce the size of fibroids prior to surgery, or to treat anemia. If you need to take this treatment for a long time, the doctor may prescribe medication to put back the hormones that were blocked.
- Antihormonal agents. These drugs, which include mifepristone, can slow or stop the growth of fibroids, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved their use for treating fibroids.
Medical treatments may give only temporary relief from the symptoms of fibroids. Once you stop the treatment, fibroids often grow back and symptoms return.
Medications are generally safe, but they can have side effects, some of which may be serious. Be sure to talk to your health care provider about the possible side effects of any medical treatment you consider.
- Evans, P., & Brunsell, S. (2007). Uterine fibroid tumors: Diagnosis and treatment. American Family Physician 75(10), 1503-1508.