IUDs can affect breast tissue

It’s been popularly believed that IUDs only work entirely locally, in the uterus. However, a new, not-yet-published study suggests otherwise.

According to the findings, some IUDs may have effects far outside the uterus and even affect breast tissue. The study authors say that their work is important in supporting what thousands of women and healthcare providers have long reported – full body side effects due to IUDs.

In fact, cases of women suffering from mild to major side effects of the intrauterine device is not new. In the past years, the copper IUD called Paragard has been the target of several lawsuits. Women who have filed a Paragard IUD lawsuit claim that they sustained painful injuries due to the device breaking during removal

This can result in additional side effects, including scarring, infection, ectopic pregnancy, and device migration, just to name a few. 

Now, the new German study may just add to the growing body of evidence that validates women’s complaints about full body effects of IUDs. 

What The Researchers Found

A new study out of Germany suggests that hormonal IUDs such as Mirena and Jaydess can have effects that extend far outside the uterus. 

These effects were found to be noticeable in breast imaging scans although these devices are known to work directly inside the uterus. 

The findings of the study challenge the common assumption that IUDs only work locally, said lead author Dr. Luisa Huck of RWTH Aachen University’s department of diagnostic and interventional radiology in a Q&A document for reporters. 

 “Our study results suggest that this is not true.”

In fact, according to a press release, the researchers found that the hormonal IUDs’ full body effects were similar to those seen in hormone replacement therapy. They also added that their findings reveal that it’s “plausible that IUDs can have side effects similar to that of other hormonal treatments,” just like women have long reported. 

Most importantly, the authors said that their work is important to validate women’s reports of struggling with the full body side effects of IUDs. 

Moreover, to them, the study also helps patients and providers make informed decisions when it comes to birth control options. 

The Procedure

Co-author Dr. Christiane Kuhl, chief of the Department of Radiology at RWTH Aachen University, wanted to investigate how IUDs can affect breast tissue. 

This curiosity toward the devices started when she noticed that IUD users tended to have a higher background parenchymal enhancement (BPE) on contrast-enhanced breast MRI.   

BPE is a marker of hormone levels. To conduct the study, Dr. Kuhl and colleagues identified 48 women who had no prior history of breast cancer as well as hormone or anti hormone intake, and who underwent a contrast-enhanced breast MRI at least twice. 

Half of the participants underwent their first breast MRI before getting their IUDs and the second one after IUD insertion. The other half had their MRI with an IUD inserted and the second after it was removed. 

This procedure allowed the team to see how IUDs affected each woman’s BPE levels. The method also helped them avoid any age-related hormonal changes that could negatively impact the results.

The study authors found that BPE levels were significantly higher in 23 of 48 patients. According to them, the findings don’t only suggest that the effects of IUDs can be detected far outside the uterus, but it also reveals that IUD use should be considered when interpreting breast MRI results. 

“IUDs appear to be a very safe means of contraception, and are generally well tolerated,” lead author Dr. Huck wrote to reporters. “However, in case you experience so-far unexplainable side effects, talk to your doctor, and consider using other types of contraception.” 

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