There are too many women suffering in silence.
There are too many black women who don’t speak up and don’t seek help.
The fact is that 80% of African American women develop uterine fibroids in their lifetime. These non-cancerous growths can cause pain, discomfort, reproductive issues, and more.
And if they do seek help, they’re told the only answer is a hysterectomy.
But that’s not the only answer.
There is a non-invasive, effective procedure called Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) that not only changed my life as someone who suffered from uterine fibroids, but the life of many women suffering from this condition.
We discussed UFE, women’s health, and how to empower yourself with knowledge on episode 7 of Unlocking the Club podcast. On it, I spoke with Dr. John Lipman—a pioneer in this field—and Teresa Edwards, who introduced us.
There is an option for women with uterine fibroids. And the more knowledge we can share about it, the more each person can be empowered to advocate for their own health.
What are Uterine Fibroids and UFE?
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths in the uterus. They’re very common and often get worse with age. For some women, the fibroids don’t cause issues or symptoms. But for others—particularly black women—the symptoms can be severe.
Personally, my symptoms over about four years dramatically altered my life. Excessively heavy and frequent periods and pain kept me from living my day-to-day life.
After hearing Teresa Edwards, five-time Olympian, publicly open up and speak about her own experience, I decided to follow up with her and get help. She pointed me to Dr. Lipman, the world’s leading uterine fibroid specialist and owner of the Atlanta Fibroid Center.
Dr. Lipman performed UFE on me, a simple day procedure that left me with no more than a bandaid.
And to say he changed my life is not an exaggeration—UFE gave me my life back.
But UFE is not a common procedure for uterine fibroids. Most doctors still recommend hysterectomies (removal of the uterus) or myomectomies (surgical removal of the fibroids) instead.
Both of these surgical options have their own potentially severe side effects and carry a higher level of risk. Dr. Lipman is adamant that we need to stop treating benign diseases with permanent surgeries.
Empowering Women with Knowledge
UFE is a procedure that most women with uterine fibroids can benefit from. And yet, despite 25 years of successful and safe procedures, it’s still rarely discussed or offered as an option.
Why is this?
Well, hysterectomies and other surgeries make money, so there’s a capitalistic reason why something simple and non-invasive like UFE hasn’t replaced surgery.
This can feel so frustrating, especially for women who have been suffering for years and even had a few surgical procedures to try and help in the past.
But the more knowledge you have, the more power you have. And, the more you can share with and empower other women who need to know this.
We all have agency in our own health journeys. Dr. Lipman encourages all of us to find a physician who will listen, understand, and work with you toward solutions. To best advocate for your own health, he recommends:
- Seeking multiple opinions from different physicians
- Bringing someone with you who can help ask tough questions and understand the answers
- Working with a physician who takes time to listen and understand you
- Remember that you know your body better than anyone else and speak from that empowered position
It can be hard to talk about personal medical issues, especially surrounding reproductive and women’s health.
But we also need to look out for each other and share the information we learn.
So, if this information is new to you and you know other people who can benefit from it, share the podcast episode with your friends!
Practicing Wellness and Self-Care
If you’re reading this and resonating with the information, I urge you to seek help.
We don’t always know what options are available and, in the case of UFE, there’s not a lot of information out there. A lot of women simply don’t know about the option.
But taking care of your health—seeking help when you need it—is how you get your world back. Health and wellness are essential to living a full and happy life. Here are a few pieces of advice from Dr. Lipman:
- Know that a hysterectomy is not your only option. If your doctor is not willing to discuss alternatives, find a new doctor who will listen.
- You don’t have to push through. So often we feel like we owe it to our employers or colleagues or family members to push through and not let them in on our suffering. But the truth is that you first owe it to yourself to take care of your body… Because you can’t care for others until you care for yourself!
- Prevention through an anti-estrogenic diet can be helpful in managing fibroids. This includes managing body weight, which stores estrogen, as well as reducing dairy, red meat, and non-organic chicken.
- Vitamin D is essential for overall health and managing fibroids. Due to darker pigmentation, many black women do not obtain enough vitamin D from the sun, so supplementation can be helpful.
Lack of knowledge isn’t the only thing that holds women back from seeking help. For some, there may also be fear and mistrust of the medical system, or practical barriers like finances and insurance.
But when you are committed to self-care and self-love, you will find a way through these barriers. Don’t let that fear or mistrust hold you back from taking care of your one body.
If you want to learn more about Dr. Lipman’s work, visit his website, Atlanta Fibroid Center. He also has a YouTube channel with tons of information about uterine fibroids and UFE so you can become educated and take necessary steps for your own health and well-being.
Teresa Edwards is the one who introduced me to Dr. Lipman and I’m so grateful! You can keep up with her at www.officialteresaedwards.com.