Rare treatment can cut tumour recurrence in women, study finds

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 August, 2010, 12:00am

Chinese University has completed a study which concludes that a treatment rarely used in Hong Kong for a common 'women's problem' - which cuts its recurrence rate from 51 per cent to just 18.5 per cent - is much more successful than treatments usually used here.

The non-surgical treatment of common benign tumours called uterine fibroids blocks blood supply to the tumours, causing them to shrink and finally die.

The growths are among the most common such tumours in women, affecting about 20 to 40 per cent of females before their mid-40s.

Although they are not cancerous, the growths can cause excessive menstruation and pelvic pain. Conventional treatments include hormone therapy and myomectomy - surgical removal.

Hormone therapy has limited success, and recurrence rates after surgery reach 51 per cent, said Professor Simon Yu Chun-ho of Chinese University's department of imaging and interventional radiology. The alternative procedure, uterine fibroid embolisation, involves delivery of microspheres known as polyvinyl alcohol to the tumours' blood supply, blocking supply and ultimately killing them.

The treatment shrinks the size of tumours by up to 60 per cent and relieves symptoms in 70 to 80 per cent of patients.

However, it is not recommended for women who want to get pregnant because the treatment creates a less than optimum environment in the uterus for a pregnancy.

The embolisation treatment, used in the West for about 10 years, is not widely known to Hong Kong people and, as a result, most people with uterine fibroids were treated surgically, Yu said.

Embolisation can be further improved, according to the report, by using another type of microsphere. Trisacryl, instead of the conventional polyvinyl alcohol, can further boost treatment success rates.

A comparison of polyvinyl alcohol and trisacryl revealed that tumour regrowth after treatment by the former was 41.4 per cent, compared with only 18.5 per cent for the latter - a huge improvement.

The study was presented at the 95th annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in December last year.

Another treatment option for uterine fibroids involves focusing ultrasound energy on the growth, to kill it without creating a wound in the body.

Improved treatment

Tumour regrowth of up to 51 per cent occurs after uterine fibroid surgery

A Chinese University study shows that a treatment rarely used in Hong Kong results in a recurrence rate of only: 18.5%