Many Black women have been taught to ignore or adapt to the pain they feel during that time of the month. Many people consider it something women have to go through. When menstruation pain starts negatively impacting daily activities every month, it is a cue to get some help. Uterine fibroids could be the culprit behind the discomfort.

Gynecologist Janet Bruno-Gaston spoke with 21Ninety about the common and often misdiagnosed condition, and everything Black women need to know about uterine fibroid treatments.

Understanding Uterine Fibroids

Fibroids, also known as leiomyomas, are smooth muscle tumors that develop primarily in or around the uterus.

“They are usually noncancerous, which is a relief to many, but their presence can still lead to a range of complications,” Bruno-Gaston said.

While fibroids are tumors, their noncancerous nature means they don’t pose the same risks as malignant growths.

Recognizing Symptoms and When to Seek Help

The symptoms of uterine fibroids can vary significantly.

“If the fibroids are small, you may not have any symptoms at all,” Bruno-Gaston explained. “However, common symptoms indicating fibroids include abnormal or excessive bleeding, especially during periods, pelvic pressure or pain, and constipation or urinary frequency, depending on the size and position of the fibroids.”

Given that these symptoms can overlap with other health issues, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider if you experience them. Early detection can significantly improve treatment outcomes.

Fibroids and Black Women: A Higher Prevalence

Fibroids are extremely common, with over 70 percent of women developing them by the age of 50. However, the prevalence is even higher among Black women, with estimates suggesting that 8 in 10 may be affected. This disparity underscores the importance of awareness and proactive healthcare.

“Black women should know they are not alone and should not be afraid to bring up concerns about fibroids with their OB/GYN,” Bruno-Gaston advised. “Healthcare providers can identify fibroids through a clinical exam or pelvic imaging, which is the first step towards managing them.”

Treatment Options for Uterine Fibroids

When it comes to treating fibroids, there are several approaches, ranging from medication to surgery.

“Treatment decisions are based on the severity of symptoms, the size and location of the fibroids, and the patient’s future family planning goals,” Bruno-Gaston said.

Medical management might involve oral pills or injections designed to stabilize the uterine lining or shrink the fibroids. For larger fibroids, or those that directly impact the uterine cavity, surgical options might be more effective.

Emerging treatments, such as uterine fibroid embolization or high-intensity focused ultrasound, are promising.

“These interventional radiology techniques work by interrupting the blood flow to the fibroids or ablating them, which can provide relief,” Bruno-Gaston said.

However, women interested in future childbearing should carefully evaluate these options with a fertility specialist.

Prevention and Early Intervention

Despite advancements in understanding fibroids, there is currently no proven way to prevent them.

“While we’ve identified risk factors and gained insights into fibroid growth, the exact cause remains unknown,” Bruno-Gaston explained.

This uncertainty makes early intervention and treatment even more crucial.

“Speaking with your provider about fibroid symptoms early can help improve your response to treatment and decrease your risk of complications,” she advised.

Regular check-ups and open communication with healthcare providers are key components in managing health effectively.