Fibroids: What Black Women Should Know

Friday, 26 June 2009 10:48 Written by  Sydney Corryn

Junichia Hubbard had hefty periods, unbearable abdominal pains and fibroids that would soon become a bigger matter than she expected. She took birth control pills to slow her cycle and decrease the pain, which was not enough. Hubbard was a senior in high school when a fibroid tumor was detected during a regular check-up.

womanFibroids, also known as uterine leiomyomas, are non-cancerous tumors that develop on the muscle of the uterus in the female reproductive system. African American women are three times more likely to get fibroids. They have a tendency to develop them at a younger age than any other race. Hubbard, now in her thirties, has undergone two surgeries to remove fibroids that were damaging her female organs.

There are four different types of fibroids; each grow in different areas and have their own set of damages.

An intramural fibroid, which Hubbard was diagnosed with, is the most common that grows on the wall of the uterus. Subserous tumors develop on the outer layer of the uterine muscle. These can become very large. Tumors that grow in the muscle beneath the lining of the womb are submucous. In some cases, they expand long enough to reach the cervix. Lastly, there are those that develop in the cervix, the neck of the womb, called cervical fibroids. Their location creates difficulty for removal, in fears of harming the female reproductive system.

Seventy-five percent of women are not aware they have fibroids because not all produce symptoms, according to, though some range from unusual heavy bleeding during the menstrual cycle or prolonged periods of the cycle, to abnormal pelvic pain after sex and painful cycles. Anemia, which is lack of iron, may rise because of excessive bleeding. Problems with the bladder may also be a sign of fibroids; bladder issues include the constant need to urinate even if it is a small amount, leaking and inability to urinate.

Fibroids can lead to serious health issues, such as excessive bleeding, which causes anemia, blood transfusions, hysterectomies and fertility problems. Treatments for the tumors depend on the patient’s symptoms, desire and wish to reproduce.

The common way to find fibroids is an ultrasound scan which takes images of the organs and locates possible lumps. A hysteroscopy is when a hysteroscope, a small telescope, enters the vagina to get a closer look in the uterus. A biopsy may be taken in which anesthetic will be provided. A laparoscopy takes samples by making a small cut underneath the belly button. Stitches will be provided after the nick is made.       

Fibroids can also cause an extreme amount of distress, which is treated with painkillers or birth control. Contraceptives are also used to regulate the female menstrual cycle and decrease massive bleeding. The hormone pill, Lupron, is prescribed to patients to decrease the tumor and abnormal bleeding. Hubbard took Lupron until doctors realized they needed to take more drastic measures. If pills fail to ease the pain, bleeding or the growth of the tumor, surgery is the best option.

One technique is ablation. Ablation is when the lining of the uterus is ruined to stop heavy bleeding. The more complicated measures include the mastectomy and hysterectomy. A mastectomy takes out the fibroids without removing the uterus, whereas a hysterectomy removes the whole uterus and the fibroids. A hysterectomy is not recommended for women who do not have children and wish to conceive later in life.

Another surgery is Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE), which shrinks the tumors by cutting off the blood supply to the fibroids.

“This would be attributable to the strong desires of women and physicians to have as much information as possible on fertility and pregnancy outcomes after treatment alternatives to hysterectomy. Women no longer want to just preserve their uterus; they want a treatment that preserves or enhances their fertility,” said Dr. Gaylene Pron, a clinical epidemiologist of the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Toronto. Women have preconceived notions that this will end their ability to get pregnant or give birth. This method is still new on the market and still is undergoing tons of extensive research.

According to, a website that discusses Uterine Fibroid Embolization, consult your OB/Gyn about suitable procedure options that will eliminate the fibroid. It is important to conduct research and get three or four different opinions. Vital questions you should ask include: Do I really need to have this surgery? Will all my female organs be removed? Is this for the better? Do I have less drastic options? Will this affect menopause? What risks and benefits are involved with the surgeries?

Hubbard was 23 when doctors removed her fibroids by mastectomy because it was pushing her uterus out the way. The intention was to only create a small slit at her bikini line, but they discovered six other tumors behind the basketball-sized fibroid that were not visible using an ultrasound scan. Doctors were forced to cut her hip to hip and reconstruct her entire uterus.

After surgery, though, there is always a chance of the fibroids growing back. This is what happened in Hubbard’s case. Three years after her mastectomy, the tumors grew back. In December 2007, the second set of fibroids was removed, which were not as severe as the first ones.

Almost 20 o 50 percent of women will have fibroids at a point in their lives. Some say it may be hereditary or the increased level of estrogen that makes fibroids grow. Research is still going on and hopes to shed more light. It is important for every woman to understand fibroids and possible removal techniques so they don’t compromise their organs or their desires to have a family.


*Photography by GMO Photographer, Billy Montgomery.

Sydney Corryn

Sydney Corryn

Sydney Corryn is a recent graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a degree in journalism. Her interests range from socioeconomic problems, culture, traveling, dysfunctional political campaigns, and of course, Chicago's nightlife. She hopes to use her communication skills and passion for community issues to create a career for herself.  She will be teaching English in Chile for six months starting the end of June, 2012.

Sydney can be contacted at Sydney@glossmagazineonline or 

Latest from Sydney Corryn

back to top