How And Why Fibroids Affect Black Women Differently

A businesswoman looking into the distance

According to HealthDay, black women are more likely than whites to have severe uterine fibroid symptoms, and 32 percent of black women wait more than five years before seeking medical treatment compared to 17 percent of whites.

Fibroids, which are benign tumor in and around the uterus, affect up to 80 percent of American women before the age of 50, and are the leading cause of hysterectomies.

READ: My Story: “My Fibroid Surgery Taught Me…”

Nearly 1,000 women with fibroids responded to a Harris Interactive survey, and close to one-third of those with jobs said they missed work because of symptoms, including heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding, cramping and fatigue.

Many of the women expressed concern about fibroid treatment. More than three-quarters said they would prefer noninvasive approaches, more than half wanted to preserve their uterus, and younger women were often focused on preserving their fertility.

“I was impressed by how strongly women felt about uterine preservation,” said study author Dr. Elizabeth Stewart, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “For many women, even if they don’t want fertility, preservation of their uterus is an important goal.”

READ: Should I Consider Fibroid Surgery If They Aren’t Bothering Me?

Fortunately, fibroids won’t necessarily require a hysterectomy, especially if women get medical care early, she said.

Among the other findings: 24 percent of the working women said fibroid symptoms kept them from reaching their career potential, and 41 percent of women saw two or more health care providers before getting a diagnosis.

“Fibroids affect the quality of your life,” said N. Edward Dourron, a reproductive endocrinologist at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, Calif. The survey results mirror what he sees and hears in real life, he said.

It’s no surprise that women often see more than one doctor, said Dr. William Parker, a gynecologist at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center, Santa Monica. “Patients get told they need a hysterectomy, and they see another doctor,” he said.

READ: Fibroids: Exploring Your Treatment Options3

The exact cause of fibroids is unknown, Stewart said. Multiple hormonal and genetic factors are believed to play a role.