Health studies show that nearly a quarter of Black women between 18 and 30 have fibroids compared to about 6% of white women.
With Women’s Equality Day approaching on Aug. 26, Dr. Eric Hardee, co-founder of Houston Fibroids, is working to raise awareness on the health issue plaguing Black women across the country.
Dr. Hardee has over 20 years of experience identifying and treating uterine fibroids with a non-invasive procedure called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). From his two decades of expertise, Hardee is well aware of the factors that play into the likelihood of Black women developing uterine fibroids.
“Fibroids are benign tumors that develop from within the uterus. Fibroids are the most common tumor of the female pelvis. They develop in 80% of Black women by the age of 50,” Dr. Hardee explained to BLACK ENTERPRISE.
With symptoms including “heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, and bulk symptoms related to the size or position of the fibroids,” the Houston-based board-certified specialist detailed the factors that have led to a growing number of Black women having fibroids over women in other races.
“Fibroids grow in response to estrogen. Elevated lifetime exposure to estrogen increases the risk of developing fibroids,” Hardee said. “Early-onset menstrual cycles increase the likelihood of fibroids. Obesity is also a risk factor because fat cells increase estrogen in a woman’s circulation. Fibroids also do run in families. Having a first-degree relative with fibroids more than doubles a woman’s risk for developing fibroids.”
Studies show that Black women are getting fibroids at higher rates and younger ages than white women.
Because of this, Black women also are two to three times more likely to undergo surgery at younger ages, McLeod Health reports.
“Black women have a 2.5 greater relative risk of developing fibroids compared to white women. They experience fibroids at a younger age and have more numerous and larger fibroids which are more symptomatic,” he explained. “There is a genetic predisposition as well. A recent study found that a genetic marker associated with the development of fibroids was 2.5 times more common in Black women.”
Fibroids are already enough to deal with. But what can make the experience worse is the health disparities Black women face when undergoing treatment.
“Black women are more likely to have symptomatic fibroids. They are also more likely to have a greater number of fibroids and also have larger fibroids with more severe symptoms,” Dr. Hardee said.
“Having a greater number and larger size of fibroids leads to a much larger uterus in many Black women. This prevents Black women from having the option of less invasive surgeries such as vaginal hysterectomy or laparoscopic vaginal hysterectomy. Women with a smaller uterus who get an open hysterectomy can have a small horizontal “bikini cut” incision hidden with a bathing suit. Many Black women with fibroids have a larger uterus that necessitates a vertical incision which is more painful, takes longer to heal, and is much more visible.”
Fortunately, Dr. Hardee specializes in a non-invasive procedure called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) that can help Black women avoid a more strenuous recovery.
“Black women looking to avoid these pitfalls can reach out to fibroid support groups and use the internet and social media to seek out less invasive treatment options such as Uterine Fibroid Embolization,” Hardee said. “This outpatient treatment option can eliminate fibroid symptoms in the overwhelming majority of women with surgery. Women can learn more at HoustonFibroids.com.