“I felt something hard in my stomach, but it wouldn’t be there all the time. I went for a Pap smear and I told the nurse practitioner that I felt something hard in my stomach,” Ronda Penrice says. “She told me, ‘Maybe it’s something you ate.’”
Penrice pauses; her disgust is evident in the silence. Then she adds, “It’s very discouraging how little the medical community cares about women’s health.”
After the fruitless visit with the nurse practitioner, Penrice did her own research. Her self-diagnosis: fibroids.
Uterine Fibroids: What They Are
Uterine fibroids, non-cancerous tumors in the wall of the uterus, can grow as a single tumor or as a cluster. Though most fibroids cause no symptoms, women who do experience symptoms may have very heavy periods, pain during sex and complications during pregnancy and labor. For reasons that aren’t clear, Black women are three times more likely to have fibroids than white women, and they are more likely to be diagnosed at an earlier age, to have larger fibroids that grow quickly and to have symptoms. Some research does suggest poor diet, obesity and the use of contraceptives may contribute to the disparity.
“I had heard about fibroids,” the Atlanta writer says. “When I was in grad school I remember girls talking about them. And I remember women had hysterectomies. I remember thinking, ‘I’ve never been around so many black women with hysterectomies,’ but nobody was talking about why.”
For a while, Penrice was one of the fortunate ones. Other than that hard belly bulge she first noticed seven years ago, she had no symptoms. Still, she sought a second opinion. The new doctor confirmed her diagnosis, but he mentioned surgery, so she sought a third opinion.
Read more about fibroids and Black women at BlackHealthMatters.com.
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(Photo: Getty Images/Cultura RF)