Black History Month: Are African-American Women More Likely to Get Fibroids?
In February, during Black History Month, people wonder why uterine fibroids occur more frequently in black women. These benign tumors often cause heavy bleeding, anemia, incontinence, pain, or infertility, which can greatly impact the quality of a woman’s life.
Uterine fibroid disease is the most prevalent reproductive illness affecting women. Fibroids affect up to 8o percent of black women over 50, while 70 percent of women suffer from them in the white community. Of the 26 million American women who have received a diagnosis of fibroids, 10 million are symptomatic.
Fibroids are also the leading cause of hysterectomies for women seeking to relieve their uterine fibroid symptoms. The Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately 600,000 hysterectomies are performed in the United States each year- and fibroids top the list of reasons the surgery is performed. USA Fibroid Centers’ mission is to spread awareness and education about fibroid disease to help women learn about less invasive treatment options – such as uterine fibroid embolization.
“Awareness is critical for early detection, which is key to ensuring that women have a voice in their treatment options, ” said Dr. Yan Katsnelson, Founder and CEO of USA Fibroid Centers. “Too many women with fibroids are unaware that there are less invasive treatments than a hysterectomy that are highly successful.”
What Are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are a common noncancerous tumor that develops in or around the uterus. There are four main types of fibroids, also called leiomyomata or myomas, which are classified by their location near the uterus and uterine lining.
Women with fibroids do not have a life-threatening condition, but they can cause painful symptoms and lead to other serious complications if left untreated. Many women will have fibroids in their life, especially black women or those of African descent.
Common Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids
Why women get fibroids is unknown, it’s important to know what to look for in case you do start experiencing symptoms, such as:
- Heavy and prolonged menstruation between or during your periods
- Anemia, which can lead to fatigue
- Pain during intercourse
- Frequent urination
- Constipation and/or bloating
- Pain in your pelvis or lower back
- Increased menstrual cramping
- Protruding abdomen or belly area
Not only are black women more prone to getting fibroids, but they may also experience different or additional symptoms of uterine fibroids compared to women of other races. They may often suffer from severe symptoms, and around 40% of black women with fibroids frequently report painful menstruation and cramps. Fibroid symptoms also cause black women to be at a three times higher risk of anemia, and women with fibroids’ fertility can be affected.
Fibroid Risk Factors for Black Women
You may wonder, “Who is more likely to get fibroids?” Black women have a risk of three times greater for developing uterine fibroids.
Black women are more likely to:
- Be affected at earlier ages
- Experience a delayed diagnosis
- Develop a greater number of fibroids
- Have fibroids with higher growth rates
- Hospitalized due to fibroids
- Require blood transfusion because of heavy bleeding
- Treat fibroids with surgical intervention
- Have complications from fibroid surgery
Why Do Black Women Get Fibroids More Frequently?
Researchers have found several elements that are linked to this disparity, though no cause has been identified. Here are some of the leading theories as to why fibroids in black women seem more prevalent:
- A genetic element may increase this tendency among Black-American women.
- Several studies suggested that women with fibroids experience greater overall lifetime stress, which may be a trigger.
- Some evidence suggests environmental factors, such as diet may increase the risk of why people develop fibroids.
- Another study indicated black women with fibroids have a Vitamin D deficiency due to darker skin.
- A study of more than 23,000 black women found an increased risk of fibroids among those with the longest and most frequent use – and most burns – from hair relaxers.
Because most black women have fibroids at some point in their lives, the symptoms they experience might seem normal for them. Fibroid symptoms can be very painful and unpleasant for every woman with fibroids. However, black women with fibroids most commonly report more severe symptoms that interfere with physical activity. A national study found that black women also tend to wait substantially longer than white women before seeking treatment.
How Do Women Get Fibroids?
You may wonder how do women get fibroids to begin with. People with uterine fibroids develop noncancerous growths of the uterus that often appear during childbearing years. Tumors form when cells grow old or become damaged and die, and new cells take their place. If the new cells are damaged or abnormal, they may overmultiply and form tumors, which are lumps of tissue. Tumors can be cancerous or not cancerous (benign).
Why Do Women Get Fibroids?
Doctors don’t know the cause of uterine fibroids. But research and clinical experience seem to indicate why women have fibroids:
- Genetic changes. Many fibroids contain changes in genes that differ from those in typical uterine muscle cells.
- Hormones. Estrogen and progesterone, two hormones that stimulate the development of the uterine lining during each menstrual cycle in preparation for pregnancy, appear to promote the growth of fibroids. Fibroids contain more estrogen and progesterone receptors than typical uterine muscle cells do. Fibroids tend to shrink after menopause due to a decrease in hormone production.
- Other growth factors. Substances that help the body maintain tissues, such as an insulin-like growth factor, may affect fibroid growth.
- Extracellular matrix (ECM). ECM is the material that makes cells stick together, like mortar between bricks. ECM is increased in fibroids and makes them fibrous. ECM also stores growth factors and causes biological changes in the cells themselves.
Treatment of Uterine Fibroids
There is currently a range of options for uterine fibroid treatment. These options include surgical – hysterectomy or myomectomy, hormonal therapy like birth control or Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), and non-surgical methods like Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE).
UFE gives women the freedom to avoid invasive surgery. It is also effective at alleviating fibroid symptoms and does not remove the uterus.
Unfortunately, black women are more likely to be less aware of treatment choices and only presented with surgical treatments. More black women have hysterectomies – and are less likely to have laparoscopic hysterectomies than other races. A hysterectomy is a permanent solution for uterine fibroids and is not recommended for women of reproductive age that plan to conceive a child in the future.
Although there are other options, black women with fibroids are two to three times more likely to get a hysterectomy for fibroid removal and seven times more likely to get a myomectomy.
When To See A Doctor
See your doctor if you have the following:
- Pelvic pain that doesn’t go away
- Overly heavy, prolonged or painful periods
- Spotting or bleeding between periods
- Difficulty emptying your bladder
- Unexplained low red blood cell count (anemia)
Non-surgical Treatment Options
Many women wonder why they developed fibroids, but few actually know about all their options for treatment.
UFE is a very effective, non-surgical treatment method for uterine fibroids. At USA Fibroid Centers, we exclusively offer UFE treatment for uterine fibroids at our outpatient treatment clinics nationwide. Patient satisfaction rates with UFE are high. UFE treatment is considered very safe with a low risk of complications.
At USA Fibroid Centers, we offer UFE to every woman with fibroids, of every race, age, background, and income bracket, to have access to treatment that can provide them with lasting relief. If you think you have uterine fibroids or if you want to know more about Uterine Fibroid Embolization, give us a call today at 855.615.2555.
Our on-site representatives are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding insurance, treatment cost, doctor availability, or setting up an appointment. Don’t let fibroids ruin your life; get treatment from the nation’s largest fibroid treatment network.