Fibroids are noncancerous tumors that grow in or on the uterus.

They affect between 20 and 80 percent of women by age 50 years, according to the Office on Women’s Health at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

While some people with fibroids notice no symptoms, others have painful periods and heavy menstruation that may require treatment.

Doctors may recommend treatments for fibroid symptoms, such as:

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • oral contraceptives
  • tranexamic acid
  • surgery to remove or shrink the fibroids

The only way to cure uterine fibroids is through a hysterectomy.

However, groundbreaking studies are giving doctors more ways to treat fibroids and heavy menstrual flow.

Read on to learn more about the latest research and treatment options for this condition.

In May 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug Oriahnn, a combination medication that consists of elagolix, estradiol, and norethindrone acetate, as a treatment for heavy menstrual bleeding from fibroids.

The approval came after it was proven effective in two clinical trials of a total of 591 premenopausal women who had heavy menstrual flow.

Heavy menstrual flow was defined as losing around a third of a cup of menstrual blood per cycle during at least two menstrual cycles.

Between 69 and 77 percent of participants who took the medication had their menstrual blood loss reduced by half at the end of the studies, compared with just over 10 percent of people who took a placebo.

The most common side effects reported after taking Oriahnn included:

  • hot flashes
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • abnormal vaginal bleeding

The FDA first gave clearance to the Sonata System as an incision-free treatment option for uterine fibroids in 2018.

In 2020, it approved the marketing of the next generation of the technology called the Sonata System 2.1.

The system uses a thin, lighted tube called a hysteroscope to examine the uterus and an ultrasound probe to destroy fibroids with radiofrequency energy.

According to the company behind the Sonata System, Gynesonics, the updated version is easier for doctors to use than the original system.

The clearance for the Sonata System 2.1 came just months before the results of a study on the system were published.

The researchers found that women who underwent the procedure —transcervical fibroid ablation — had a significant reduction in their fibroid symptoms over 3 years after the surgery.

In addition, during the study’s 3-year follow-up, less than 10 percent of women had to have another surgery due to heavy menstrual bleeding.

A report published in the New England Journal of Medicine in January 2020 found that elagolix, a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) receptor antagonist, reduced heavy menstrual bleeding from fibroids.

The drug, which has been used as a treatment for pain from endometriosis, works by lowering the release of sex hormones from the ovaries.

The double-blind, randomized study involved nearly 800 women with uterine fibroids over the course of 6 months.

Researchers found that between 68.5 and 76.5 percent of participants who received elagolix plus a replacement dose of hormones made by the body saw at least a 50 percent reduction in menstrual blood loss from the beginning to the end of the study.

Only 8.7 to 10 percent of the women who received a placebo had a significant reduction in menstrual flow.

GnRH receptor antagonists are known to be associated with menopausal symptoms. In this study, hot flashes and night sweats were more common with elagolix alone and elagolix plus the replacement hormones compared with placebo.

The FDA is considering approval of a combination oral pill containing relugolix, a non-peptide GnRH receptor antagonist, as a treatment for heavy menstrual bleeding from uterine fibroids.

Like Oriahnn, the combination pill contains estradiol and norethindrone acetate. However, the dosing is different: relugolix therapy is only taken once per day, whereas elagolix is taken twice daily.

Trials of the drug found that around 3 out of 4 women treated with relugolix combination therapy saw a significant reduction in menstrual blood loss, compared with between 15 and 19 percent of those who received a placebo.

What’s more, the drug was also shown to reduce fibroid-associated pain on both menstrual and nonmenstrual days.

The FDA is expected to deliver its decision on relugolix approval in June 2021.

Senator Kamala Harris, the U.S. Vice President-elect, introduced a bill on uterine fibroid research and education in July 2020.

If approved, the legislation would allocate $30 million every year from 2021 to 2025 to the National Institutes of Health to develop and expand research on uterine fibroids.

It would also allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop a uterine fibroids public education program that would explain treatment options and racial disparities in people with the condition.

In addition, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) chronic conditions research database would be expanded to include data on people who have symptoms from fibroids.

Finally, the bill would direct the Health Resources and Services Administration to send information on uterine fibroids to healthcare providers across the country.

The bill still needs to be passed in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives before the president signs the bill into law.

For updates, visit this page.

Heavy menstrual bleeding and painful periods are common symptoms in people who have uterine fibroids.

Current treatments may offer ways to help reduce menstrual blood loss and pain. Medical advancements in recent years may open up the door to new treatments that help provide additional relief.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to treating uterine fibroids.

For some people, such as those with infertility, surgical techniques may be the best option.

Talk with your doctor about your symptoms to see which therapy might be right for you.