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Fibroid tumors, also called myomas, are benign growths of the uterus. Rarely do they develop into cancer. The exact cause is unknown, however, estrogen appears to play a role in it. They do not develop before puberty and they tend to shrink or disappear after a woman enters menopause, or when estrogen levels drop.
Single and multiple growths can occur. The size can range from very small, about a quarter of an inch, to quite large, greater than the size of a grapefruit. Small myomas cause no symptoms. The chief symptom of larger ones is excessive or prolonged menstruation, with little or no change in the menstrual interval. Bleeding between periods, post menopausal bleeding, pain from pressure on adjacent organs, anemia and general weakness can also occur. Fibroid tumors are very common. They are the most common growths of the female genital tract. It is believed that as many as three out of four women have them sometime during their lives. African American women are at a greater risk of getting them than any other racial group.
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Fibroid Tumors and African American Women
Not only are African American women at a greater risk of developing fibroid tumors, their growths tend to be larger and develop at an earlier age. According to one study, an estimated 80% of African American women are affected by fibroid tumors by age 60. It is also estimated that these tumors cause symptoms in half of all African American women by age 50, compared to 30% in Caucasian women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that myomas account for 68% of hysterectomies among African American women, 33% in Caucasian women and 45% in women of other races.
It is unsure why African American women are more affected by fibroids. One thought is there is a tendency in African American women to have keloids, scar tissue, more than women of other races. It is believed that the scar tissue can cause the growth of fibroids.
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Many fibroid tumors are discovered during routine pelvic exams. In this case, where there are no symptoms or problems associated with it, treatment is not necessary. However, those that do cause problems may require medications or surgical treatment.
Medications can help regulate the menstrual cycle, reduce fibroid size, relieve pain and treat anemia. These include hormones, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and iron supplementation.
Myomectomy - This procedure removes the fibroid tumors from the uterus. This is the preferred treatment for women who wish to bear children.
Hysterectomy - This procedure removes the uterus. The ovaries are normally left intact. This treatment ensures the fibroids do not return.
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Whether you are an African American women or a woman of another race, it is important to have routine pelvic exams and to consult with your health care provider if symptoms or problems do occur.
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Mayo Clinic: Uterine fibroids - http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/uterine-fibroids/DS00078
WebMD: Uterine Fibroids - http://women.webmd.com/uterine-fibroids/uterine-fibroids
National Institutes of Health - http://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/fibroid.cfm
BNET: What every Black woman should know about fibroid tumors - http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1077/is_n5_v53/ai_20380701/
EmpowHer: Fibroids In African American Women, Why Do They Occur So Often? - http://www.empowher.com/uterine-fibroids/content/fibroids-african-american-women-why-do-they-occur-so-often-dr-mclucas-video
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Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (NLM)