An estimated three of every four women will have to address the issue of uterine fibroids during their lifetimes and 80 percent of black American women are likely to get them before the age of 50.
Fibroid tumors grow in the uterus, generally are not cancerous and can be as small as a pea or grow as large as a melon.
Fibroids are two to three times more common in African American women than other American women, tend to be larger, more numerous, more symptomatic, and can cause or contribute to pelvic pain, heavy bleeding, infertility, and miscarriages, and are the leading cause of hysterectomies for black women who have a threefold higher risk for hysterectomies compared with white women.
New technologies, however, can reduce the pain and difficulties in treating fibroids.
Dr. Shelley Dunson-Allen, an Atlanta-area based gynecologist, vice chief of medical staff at North Fulton Hospital and a member of the board of directors of the Georgia Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, has a practice that focuses on management of abnormal uterine bleeding, fibroids, contraception and robotic laparoscopic/minimally invasive surgery.
While medical researchers have not been able to pinpoint exactly what causes uterine fibroids in women, studies have suggested that family history, a diet heavy with red meat and obesity may all be contributing factors.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for example, reported that women with higher glycemic index levels had an increased risk for fibroids. Sugary drinks, pastries, white bread and white rice all have high glycemic indices that can lead to blood sugar spikes and higher insulin levels, which are linked to other hormones believed to encourage the fibroid growth.
That study also said there was evidence that women who eat a lot of beef, ham and other red meats may be at a higher risk of fibroids, while diets rich in fish, green vegetables and fruit appear to decrease the risk. Women who ate two servings of fruit each day were less likely to have fibroids. The study adds that antioxidants in the fruit may reduce the risk.
But while researchers continue to seek a definitive cause and possible preventive techniques in the treatment of fibroids, health professionals recommend that women get gynecological exams, watch their diet, exercise and consult with their ob-gyns to determine the best treatment for fibroids, should they occur.