Burdens Brought on By Uterine Fibroids

Uterine fibroids raised concerns of fertility and cancer in women

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) About 80 percent of women are affected by uterine fibroids — non-cancerous tumors in the uterus (womb) - by age 50. And they can have a significant impact on a woman’s quality of life.

Two recent studies found that many women had fears that uterine fibroids would lead to future health problems, including cancer.

Women also had fears that they would eventually need a hysterectomy — a procedure in which the uterus is removed.

The researchers also found that African American women reported more severe symptoms of uterine fibroids, including heavy or longer than normal menstrual periods, than other women.

"Speak with your doctor about treatment options for uterine fibroids."

The two research studies were led by Elizabeth A Stewart, MD, from the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical School in Minnesota. The research teams assessed the impact of uterine fibroids on quality of life in a racially diverse sample of women, as well as specifically on African American women.

In the first study, the researchers analyzed data on 968 women (573 white, 268 African American, 127 other races) between the ages of 29 and 59 who displayed symptoms of uterine fibroids. These symptoms included bloating, heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding, passing blood clots, bowel or bladder problems (e.g., trouble urinating), fatigue, painful intercourse, backache or leg pains or stomach pain, cramping or tightness.

The women completed a survey with questions about diagnosis and symptoms of uterine fibroids, dealing with fertility and concerns about treatment.

Several factors were taken into account that could have influenced quality of life. These factors included age, race, geographic location, number of children, education, employment status and income.

The researchers found that more than 50 percent of women in their sample feared that the fibroids would grow, would lead to future health complications including cancer, would affect their sex life or that they would eventually need a hysterectomy.

Women were found to wait an average of 3.6 years before seeking treatment for uterine fibroids, and 41 percent saw at least two healthcare providers for diagnosis. Almost one-third of employed women in their sample reported missing work due to fibroid symptoms, and 24 percent believed that their symptoms prevented them from reaching their full career potential.

The researchers also found that 79 percent of women expressed desire for treatments not involving invasive surgery, 51 percent wanted treatments that would keep the uterus intact, and 43 percent of women under the age of 40 wanted treatments that preserved fertility.

In the second study, the researchers specifically focused on the 268 African American women from the first study and used the white women from that study as a comparison group.

African American women were significantly more likely to have heavy or prolonged menstrual periods and anemia — a condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough healthy red blood cells. African American women also more often reported that fibroids disrupted their physical activities and relationships, and were more likely to miss days from work.

The researchers found that African American women were most concerned about fertility and pregnancy after receiving fibroid treatments.

According to the authors of this study, having uterine fibroids is the primary reason for why women get a hysterectomy — a surgery to remove the uterus. They noted that African American women in particular are at a greater risk of having uterine fibroids and they tend to get them at an earlier age than women in other racial groups.

Based on their findings, the authors concluded that women need more information on alternatives to surgical procedures to treat uterine fibroids.

These studies were published on October 24 in the Journal of Women’s Health and the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Some of the researchers reported potential conflicts of interest with companies, including Abbott, Bayer and Ferring Pharmaceutical.

Review Date: 
October 30, 2013
Last Updated:
February 25, 2014