It is unknown why uterine fibroids develop in the first place but there have been some risk factors for uterine fibroids development that have been identified. One of those risk factors that cannot be explained is that black women are more at risk (3 times more at risk) than women of other races and report earlier development of these tumors as well as having more symptomatic fibroid tumors than other races. They also grow faster and are larger. This post is about an African-American PhD student’s account of her experience with fibroids.
It is important to note that the studies on black women that showed this increased risk of developing fibroids were performed mainly on African-American women. It is thought that the risk may be the same for black women in other parts of the world such as Africa, the Caribbean, etc, but as of right now research on black women in other parts of the world is very limited.
The following is an excerpt from the article “Black Female Scholars and Health: My Experience With Fibroids, Surgery and a Phd program”
Before I moved across the country to begin my PhD program three years ago, I had what I call an episode one night, when I felt like I was being stabbed in my abdomen. It lasted for half an hour. I also felt a bulging in my uterus and abdomen as the days passed. When I settled into my new life in my PhD program, I finally decided to bite the bullet and go to the doctor to figure out what was wrong. She explained after a surface exam, pressing onto my stomach, that I probably had fibroids, and that the stabbing feeling I had could be a pedunculated fibroid or basically a tumor that was growing larger than the stem that was holding it up, until the stem either twisted or bent under the weight of the tumor.
After returning to school, after 7 years in the work world, there was indeed pressure for me to do well in this new and challenging academic environment. Looking back I can see that I ignored my health as I took on this new pursuit; after all, several doctors told me that I could live with fibroids for a long time, years in fact, without seeking treatment. So I carried on, but I could see that my quality of life was going down. My sleeping grew worse, I felt tired all the time, I wasn’t digesting food well, I had urinary urgency and soon I couldn’t really exercise effectively. I had to do something before the problem grew worse.
Kimberly B. Ross upon discussion with her doctor decided to have a myomectomy which is a procedure that surgically removes the tumors while the uterus remains intact. However due to the uterus remaining intact, more tumors may develop in the future. Read more about the myomectomy here.
According to Ross, she decided to have this surgical procedure because according to her;
My initial ultrasound revealed 4 large tumors, one the size of a small melon. Yes a melon! Causing my uterus to eventually expand to the size of a 4-5 month pregnancy. I was trying to diet away something that was not going to shrink without surgery. No amount of supplements, acupuncture, or wheatgrass was going to make tumors that large shrink. Nevertheless, I do believe based on basic Internet research that there were things I could have done, had I known earlier that I had these growths. I could have adopted lifestyle changes that may have helped me manage or control their size to some extent. I have since made some changes that are rooted in alternative dietary practices and supplements that I feel work for me, but I would encourage you to do what makes you feel comfortable, beginning with speaking with your Ob/Gyn.
A biopsy, two ultrasounds, an MRI and almost three years later, doctors discovered that I had in fact closer to 15 tumors, but maybe more, not because I had waited too long, but because further tests were needed to really see what was going on. I finally found an amazing doctor with an impeccable bedside manner who gave me the confidence I needed to move forward with surgery. It felt like the universe just opened up and gave me the exact person I needed to talk to about this delicate situation. Unlike many of the other doctors who I spoke with, this doctor understood that women today are trying to balance building careers while preserving fertility. I never had to explain how I felt at all. After 20 years, performing a host of surgeries to remove fibroids, she intuitively knew that preserving my fertility was not about the inevitability of having children but rather preserving the choice. She was not condescending about my life choices, and respected me as a modern woman. My gratitude to her is immeasurable.
Surgery is definitely one option for dealing with uterine fibroids but this is a conversation you may want to discuss with your doctor on your options. There are also many natural methods you can begin to implement to get rid of fibroids if you do not want to have surgery or in combination with surgery. One thing that Ross mentioned was that her one regret was that she waited so long before doing something about the tumors and finding a solution. Do not wait too long. Take steps starting today to get rid of uterine fibroids.
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