Hormone therapy is a nonsurgical treatment for uterine fibroids. Hormone therapy does not cure fibroids, but it does manage symptoms of pain, heavy bleeding and pelvic pressure.
There are different kinds of hormone therapies available. You and your doctor will determine which medicines are best for you based on your symptoms.
- Birth control pills. Birth control uses hormones to control heavy bleeding and painful periods. In some women, birth control may cause fibroids to grow larger.
- Androgens. Androgens are the “male” hormones, including testosterone. Your body makes certain levels of androgens. When taken as medicine, androgens can stop menstruation, correct anemia and shrink fibroids. They may cause unwanted side effects such as weight gain, acne and hair growth.
- Progestin-releasing intrauterine device (IUD). Your doctor can implant an IUD infused with progestin in the uterus. The progestin reduces heavy, painful bleeding. An IUD is not recommended for women with a large uterine cavity.
- Progesterone injections. Regular injections of progesterone, such as Depo-Provera, can control heavy bleeding and stop fibroid growth.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists (GnRHa). These medicines, such as Lupron, prevent your body from making the hormones that cause ovulation and menstruation. The medicines also reduce the size of fibroids. You can take a GnRHa by injection, nasal spray or implantation. Your doctor may prescribe a GnRHa to shrink fibroids before surgery or to treat anemia. These medicines are typically only used for six months or less because they cause menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and bone loss.
- Antihormonal agents. Antihormonal medicines such as mifepristone may slow or stop the growth of fibroids. Though the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of antihormonal agents for the treatment of uterine fibroids, your doctor may prescribe them for an off-label use.
Many hormone therapy treatments are successful at reducing the size of uterine fibroids and controlling heavy bleeding. Hormone therapy is cost-effective and preserves your ability to become pregnant when you stop taking the medicines.
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Hormone Therapy Treatment Information
What to Expect
Hormone therapy treatments provide temporary relief from the symptoms of uterine fibroids. Your doctor will prescribe a hormone therapy that is right for you and your symptoms. Take the medicine as directed and tell your doctor about any side effects.
You should begin to feel relief from your uterine fibroid symptoms within a few days to two weeks of beginning hormone therapy. You should notice reduced pain as fibroids stop growing or shrink and less bleeding with each menstrual cycle. In most cases, you will notice a change in your symptoms within a few days.
If you stop taking the medicine, the fibroids may grow back and symptoms will return.
Hormone therapy medicines are generally safe, but they can have some dangerous side effects such as bone loss.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about the risks of side effects and ways to treat them. If you take gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists, your doctor may prescribe medicine to replace the hormones that are blocked. This can help keep your bones strong.
Your doctor will monitor your condition regularly. How often you see your doctor depends on which medicine you are taking. If you are taking a gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist to reduce the size of fibroids before surgery, your doctor will check your uterus after a few weeks.
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