Approximately 80% of all women, not just Black women but ALL women worldwide, have fibroids. Fibroids are benign, non-cancerous tumors that grow in the womb or uterus of a woman’s body.
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES:
There are two types of fibroid conditions — those with symptoms, and those without them. Symptomatic fibroids range from very little pain to life-threatening symptoms. Asymptomatic fibroids may cause the abdomen to push out a little, but aren’t really painful or life-threatening. Some women with asymptomatic fibroids don’t do anything, they just live with the fibroids in their uterus.
Women suffering with symptomatic fibroids can experience any one or combination of the following symptoms:
- Appetite gain/loss
- Weight gain/loss
- Heavy bleeding that can last for a long time
- Painful menstrual cycles
- Extreme fatigue/ shortness of breath
- Anemia requiring blood transfusion
- Headaches & migraines
- Dizziness or memory loss
- Difficulty walking
- Back pain
- Abdominal pain
- Increase/decrease of libido
- Mood changes, including thoughts of suicide
Also, it’s important to note there are several different types of fibroids. The type of fibroid depends on it’s location in the uterus. How to treat a fibroid depends on the type/location of the fibroid. In short, not all treatments apply to every condition.
The staff at BeautifulBlackPortland.com spoke with many women suffering with fibroids, along with medical professionals and doctors at various organizations. One woman (who requested anonymity) had a terrible case of symptomatic fibroids. After looking for options beyond hysterectomy, she finally left Portland to have an abdominal myomectomy (removal of fibroids retaining her uterus). Lucky for her, she has the means to explore this option, but what happens to women who don’t?
This is a straightforward discussion with photos from her actual surgery.
Warning:The photos are real and graphic. Click to view.
Black women receive hysterectomy, the removal of the uterus, at a higher percentage than other women. Often times, doctors don’t inform Black women of the many options available, and many doctors don’t know of these options themselves. A simple Google search will produce several articles on the overuse of unnecessary hysterectomy recommendations. In 2005, an article, “When Does Hysterectomy Go Too Far?” appeared in The Los Angeles Times.
Here, we will attempt to dispel some of the myths, and offer options for women faced with the decision of what to do. Depending on individual medical conditions, keeping your uterus may be an option.
Ten Things You Should Know Before Choosing Hysterectomy
1. Contrary to popular belief, Black women are not the only women suffering with fibroids. In fact, during our research, most of the women we encountered were white and suffered from the same, if not worse, symptoms than Black women. It is important to note women all over this world suffer with fibroids.
2. Having fibroids does not mean you automatically need a hysterectomy. Many women believe the presence of fibroids equals hysterectomy, not true! During her journey to find the best option for her, our subject spoke with four different doctors here in Portland. All of them told her she is beyond child bearing years, and having a hysterectomy is no big deal. Inevitably, all of them quoted some statistic relative to her race. In other words, they tried to use her race to justify or convince her to have a hysterectomy. One doctor reports a Black woman coming into his office and saying, “I’m ready for my hysterectomy. My mother had hers at my age and now I’m ready to have mine.” He used this story to encourage her, as a Black woman, to have a hysterectomy. As if to say, “See, this is what you should do.” He even asked if it was okay to have a colleague come in the room because he just didn’t understand why she was so attached to her uterus. Being fed up at this point, she looked at the doctor and asked,”would you volunteer to have your balls cut off?” She left his office and did not go back.
3. When dealing with fibroids, there are many options beyond hysterectomy. During our research, we discovered Dr. William Parker. Dr. Parker specializes in fibroids and believes in maintaining a woman’s uterus. He is the recipient of numerous medical awards, and women from all over the world come to Dr. Parker when faced with the decision of fibroid removal, because Dr. Parker has several approaches to this medical dilemma. If you are a woman suffering with fibroids we highly recommend a visit to Dr. Parker.
4. If a doctor tells you she or he can perform an abdominal myomectomy, but it’s a bloody, lengthy operation and very complicated, get up and leave!
5. Many women don’t know not to panic. Fibroids, like any living/growing thing, has a life cycle. Although every woman is different, the growth patterns of fibroids typically follow this pattern. According to some of the medical professionals we spoke with, if fibroids are present, they tend to go through a rapid growth period between the age of 30-40. As a woman’s body begins to prepare for menopause, or if the woman is experiencing perimenopause, the growth of fibroids decrease. During menopause when a woman’s body produces less estrogen, fibroids can shrink, alleviating the woman of symptoms. Some women wait it out, while others, because of extreme symptoms, cannot.
6. If you are the spouse, friend, child, cousin, aunt, niece, mother, father, grandparent, or friend of a woman suffering with symptomatic fibroids, be patient and kind.
You have NO idea what she is going through.
7. Having a hysterectomy does not guarantee that fibroids will not come back. We were shocked to encounter a case of a woman who decided to have a hystrectomy to rid her of fibroids. She discovered fibroids can grow in other parts of the body, even though her uterus is gone. There is a small percentage of women who experience parasatic fibroids after having a hysterectomy. This woman discovered she had two fibroids in her stomach and one in her right lung!
8. Research, research, research — and again I say, research! — until you find the doctor and option that works for YOU and YOUR situation, not your mother’s! Join an online support group like the one Carla Dionne created. Carla’s journey suffering with fibroids lasted over 8 years. She is now the Executive Director of the National Uterine Fibroids Foundation and author of a book, Sex, Lies and the Truth About Uterine Fibroids. Join Carla’s online support group for women with fibroids at firstname.lastname@example.org.
9. Take care of yourself, advocate for yourself when visiting doctors and, if you can, have someone go to every doctor’s visit with you.
10. Unlike what most doctor’s will tell you, your uterus serves many functions beyond childbirth.
Your uterus supports your pelvic floor. The position and function of other organs rely on the uterus. All surgeries come with a unique set of risks. Many women report great benefits after having an hysterectomy — but rarely,do you hear the downsides of having one. Common risks associated with hysterectomy include bladder prolapse, bladder control problems (incontinence), a loss or reduction of sex drive, premature menopause, extreme mood swings and a loss of uterine orgasm. How can you have a uterine orgasm if you don’t have a uterus! and many many others.
For more information on the adverse affects of hysterectomy, visit HERSFoundation.com.