African American women with fibroids: Are they being offered the care they need?

Fibroids are a common problem faced by women from every walk of life. However, African American women have a significantly higher occurrence of this condition. Nearly 80% of all these women experience fibroids by 55. Only 70% of white women begin developing fibroids by this time. However, there is another factor. Younger African American women are more likely to develop uterine fibroids. In addition, their fibroids are larger, appear in greater numbers, and are more likely to show symptoms.

Understanding Fibroids In African American Women

There are many potential answers to the question of why black women have a higher rate of uterine fibroids. Vitamin D and obesity are both indicated from the limited research available and genetic factors. These women also tend to experience higher rates of exposure to phthalates and BPA and are subject to racial discrimination. This latter tends to manifest in limited access to the necessary care for cases of uterine fibroids.

Understanding why these disparities exist requires learning about the biological, structural, and historical factors that brought them into being and sustains them.

  • Structural – The availability of healthcare has always varied from region to region. Those women living in rural areas have reduced access to the conditions they face and how their body functions. Further, their ability to access providers for specific kinds of care is reduced. This means that many women may not have access to facilities that have the training and equipment to perform minimally invasive procedures. Further, these areas may significantly reduce the insurance options they have over those in more urban areas.
  • Historical – Looking for care has been historically more difficult for African American women. It may only take one day for a doctor to indicate that painful periods aren’t normal. However, it often takes up to five years for these women to get a fibroid diagnosis. Given the racial history of America and the subterfuge and violence that has been present in Western Medicine, these women may also wait longer to begin seeking treatment.
  • Biological – African American women are far more likely to develop fibroids. These fibroids also trend towards being larger and in greater numbers. The equipment available, the physician’s comfort, and the size of the uterus can all make it less likely that minimally invasive approaches are available to them. Remember, the larger the fibroids and the more there are of them, the larger the uterus is likely to be.

African American women who have uterine fibroids are twice as likely to receive a hysterectomy as treatment. However, many of these procedures are not performed using a minimally invasive approach. The consequence of this is that in preventing the recurrence of fibroids, their ability to become pregnant is eliminated. Further, this means they are also more often subject to extended recovery times and a higher risk of complications.

Finding The Right Specialist

This all means that it’s essential that women of African-American descent take the time to find a specialist who can help them. This means asking about the equipment available at the clinic, learning what insurance they accept, and asking about physician credentials.

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