Uterine fibroids and its disproportionate effect on Black women
Uterine fibroids is one of the most common occurrences amongst women, however when compared to other races, statistics show that Black women are two to three times more likely to have uterine fibroids and develop them at a younger age. What exactly is uterine fibroids and what are the symptoms? Uterine fibroids are muscular benign tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus, they can either grow as a single tumor or there can be many many of them in the uterus. They can become as big as a watermelon! Some of the symptoms of uterine fibroids (most women don’t experience symptoms) are: heavy bleeding/painful cycles, feelings of fullness in the pelvic area, enlargement of the lower abdomen, frequent urination, lower back pain and reproductive problems. Around 50-60% of women experience no symptoms, making it even more difficult to receive a diagnosis and the proper medical treatment.
As common as uterine fibroids is, there still hasn’t been enough research about it’s direct and disproportionate effect on women of color.
Statistics show that nine out of ten Black women will have fibroids before the age of 50 versus six out of ten white women having fibroids. While researchers and doctors have not been able to form a solid reason for the higher rate of fibroids affecting Black women, data suggests that low vitamin D levels- which Black women are more susceptible to, increase the likelihood of the development of uterine fibroids. Other factors, such as higher ratios of obesity and the relationship between racial discrimination and developing fibroids also play a role in what researchers have assumed to be the reasons for the higher rates of fibroids.
Unfortunately, as most women continue to deal with the pain of fibroids, they continue to brush it off thinking that it’s normal because other women in their family have experienced the same pain and symptoms associated with uterine fibroids. According to a study, The Burden of Uterine Fibroids for African American women, Black women tend to wait longer to seek treatment. About 42% of Black women wait four or more years before pursuing treatments. For this reason, the hospitalization rate for Black women is three times higher.
One of the most common procedures for uterine fibroids is a hysterectomy, but in some cases women opt for a myomectomy, which means the uterus remains preserved while the fibroids are surgically removed. Fibroids accounts for a third of all hysterectomies in the United States, with the hysterectomy rates among Black women being more than double than any other ethnic group!
As research continues, doctors are still trying to figure out why the case for uterine fibroids amongst Black women is at such a disproportionate rate than other ethnic groups. While it is very common, that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. We hope that all women will continue to advocate for themselves and others!
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