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Uterine fibroids, found in 70 percent of women, can cause pelvic pain and heavy menstruation and are the reason behind some 200,000 hysterectomies performed in the U.S. each year. But doctors have come across an unlikely non-surgical alternative. Research published in the Journal Obstetrics and Gynecology shows a low dose of mifepristone, or RU-486, the so-called abortion pill, shrinks fibroids 50 percent when taken for six months. Until now, other alternatives to hysterectomy have included myomectomy (surgical removal of the fibroid itself) and drug treatments that cause side effects not seen with mifepristone, such as osteoporosis and, to a lesser extent, hot flashes. "More studies need to be done, but if we're successful, it would mean a tremendous reduction in fibroid-related hysterectomies," says Steven Eisinger, M.D., professor of family medicine and ob-gyn at the University of Rochester in New York and the study's lead researcher. Doctors think the pill works by blocking the hormone progesterone from getting to the fibroids. Progesterone stimulates fibroid growth. The catch? RU-486 is not FDA-approved for treating fibroids yet, so you have to be part of a clinical study to get it, notes Dr. Eisinger. FDA approval could be years away. Until then, if you'd like to find out about clinical trials, visit the National Uterine Fibroids Foundation's Web site.