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How Fibroids Affect Black Women Today

By Whitney Greer 

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.

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.”

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.

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

Doctors disagree about the best treatments for fibroids.

“I believe treatment needs to be individualized,” Stewart said. Women need to assess where they are in their reproductive lifespan. “Most women get some shrinkage [of their fibroids] at menopause,” she said.

If waiting isn’t an option, treatment choices include medications such as birth control pills, surgery to remove just the fibroids or hysterectomy.

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