RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Burden of symptomatic uterine fibroids in Canadian women: a cohort study.

OBJECTIVE: Due to variability in size, number, and location of uterine fibroids (UFs), symptoms can range widely among women. We sought to characterize burden of illness and quality of life (QoL) among women with symptomatic UFs.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: An online survey queried the gynecologic health and menstrual cycle of Canadian women aged 20 to 49. Respondents reporting current UFs were assigned an Overall Severity Score based on a validated health-related QoL questionnaire (the UFS-QOL) and were dichotomized as having mild or moderate/severe UF. Subjects with moderate/severe UFs were matched 1:3 to non-UF subjects on age, race, and parity.

RESULTS: Of 9413 women with complete data, 384 (4.1%) reported physician-diagnosed UFs; of these, 50.6% met criteria for moderate/severe symptoms. Compared with matched non-UF respondents, moderate/severe UF respondents reported significantly greater mean menstrual duration (6.2 vs 5.0 days), more healthcare visits (emergency department, walk-in, family doctor, and specialist; total 10.5 vs 4.9 visits/6 months), and greater use of prescription analgesics (47.7% vs 26.7%) and iron supplements (29.7% vs 12.2%) (P < 0.05 for all). They spent more on feminine hygiene products ($32.0 vs $21.6/month) and reported losing nearly a full day of work/month (mean 7.6 hours) due to UFs. Women with moderate/severe UFs also scored lower on all QoL domains, compared to those with mild UF symptoms. Survey responses consistent with moderate/severe UFs were also identified in women who made no report of physician-diagnosed UFs, some of whom may be experiencing substantial burden due to undiagnosed UFs or other gynecologic conditions with related symptoms.

LIMITATIONS: All outcomes recorded in this online survey were based on self-report. Therefore, respondents' claims of medical diagnoses, including medical history, UF status and the presence or absence of potentially confounding comorbidities, could not be confirmed clinically.

CONCLUSIONS: Women experienced significant healthcare utilization, medication use, and financial and QoL burdens as a result of moderate/severe UF symptoms. Prevalence of moderate/severe UFs may be conservatively estimated at 2%, based on this cohort of reproductive-age Canadian women. The extent of UF underdiagnosis in the general population remains to be elucidated.

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