Updated: Jul 9
Black celebrities have opened up about their experiences with uterine fibroids. Who are they and what are their stories?
Beverly Johnson, a top model who is the first African-American woman on the cover of Vogue in 1974
When Beverly Johnson was first diagnosed with uterine fibroids in her 30s, she didn’t know a lot about it back then. It resulted in painful physical and emotional suffering for years brought by heavy bleeding, abdominal pain, intense fatigue, and emotional stress. She tried to manage it through dietary changes and acupuncture practices until she consulted with two doctors who told her to get a hysterectomy. Not fully knowing what it is, she went through with the procedure. Unfortunately, she severely suffered from complications after the surgery. She had to go through years of recovery and hormone replacement therapy just to regain control of her life. At present, she advocates to inform and empower women who have fibroids.
Tiffany D. Cross, host of The Cross Connection on MSNBC and author
Tiffany D. Cross unknowingly battled with fibroids for years as she started to accept that the pain she felt might soon go away. However, the debilitating pain, heavy periods, and workout efforts to reduce her belly size were all starting to take a toll on her body. She went to the emergency room and had to spend hours trying to convince doctors that there was something wrong with her. That’s how she was diagnosed with fibroids. Eventually, she was faced with the option of a temporary solution of surgery around the tumors or having a full hysterectomy which will permanently remove her uterus. She went on with the hysterectomy.
Kelly McCreary, an actress well-recognized for her role on Grey's Anatomy
Kelly McCreary lived with menstrual pains since she was 13 years old. When her periods come, she would experience intense cramps and vomiting which would cause her to miss school days. She thought these were normal for girls and those without pain were a
few of the lucky ones. As she became an adult, she’d take painkillers days before her cycle but by the time she hit her 30s, the intense cramp, heavy bleeding, and clotting became much worse and more uncomfortable.
After being diagnosed with fibroids, she was presented with several options but she chose an IUD. It worked for a while but the pains came back much worse with everyday spotting. When she had it checked, ultrasound results showed that the IUD had been moved out of place by the fibroids and that they had doubled in size. So she looked for another gynecologist and this time, she was told she didn’t have to suffer this much. Surgical excision was performed and after that, she finally lived symptom-free for the first time in her adult life.
Kenya Moore, Miss USA, and co-star in The Real Housewives of Atlanta
Kenya Moore experienced extreme pains that she learned were caused by fibroids. She went on to have several myomectomies yet her doctors never told her how it could affect her fertility one day. Only after a few surgeries did one of her nurse practitioners tell her that her uterus might not recover after all the surgeries. It sent her right into panic mode. By the time she was in her mid-30s, she knew she wanted kids but she wasn’t sure what to do.
She opened up that she resented not being able to talk to her family about this and the fact that it’s hereditary should mean at some point, somebody was familiar with the symptoms. Later in life, after she married her husband, they looked for in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics that could help them get pregnant. The first process failed but on their second attempt, the IVF worked and they got pregnant. She had her first baby in her late 40s.
Porsha Dyanne Williams, a reality TV star from The Real Housewives of Atlanta and her spin-off series, Porsha's Family Matters
Porsha Dyanne Williams openly shared her experiences with uterine fibroids while on the show. Although she got her fibroids surgically removed, it came back while she was pregnant. Prior to this, she already had a miscarriage because of fibroids so she worried about having a miscarriage again. Fortunately, she didn't have anything to worry about since she was able to give birth to her healthy child.
What are fibroids?
Uterine fibroids, or simply fibroids, are abnormal growths that form in the walls of the uterus. They are also known as leiomyomas or myomas. They aren’t commonly associated with uterine cancer risks and are noncancerous tumors in nature.
The majority of women who have it may not exhibit any symptoms but for women who have it, it may differ depending on the number of fibroids, their location, and the size. The most common signs and symptoms of fibroids in women are:
Heavy period bleeding, enough to cause anemia
Periods that are painful
Feelings of fullness pressing down the lower abdomen
Urination becoming frequent and difficult
Pain or pressure in the pelvic or lower back area
Causes of Fibroids
Like many health conditions out there, researchers and medical practitioners have not found the exact cause of uterine fibroids. Studies show, however, that a genetic component may cause it in women. If you suspect you have it, you can ask your family members if they have it. If they do, you most likely have it as well.
People at Risk for Fibroids
Some women are more at risk for developing fibroids. What factors play into this?
Age. Women who are older have higher risks compared to those younger. Particularly, women in their 30s and 40s.
Family history. Knowing your family history will let you know your risks. Having a mother with fibroids puts you at about three times more than the average.
Weight. Women who are considered to be overweight have increased risks that reach up to two to three times more than average.
Diet. Consuming food such as red meat and ham may put you at more risk whereas food such as greens is more likely to protect you against fibroids.
Ethnic origin. Fibroids are often found in African-American women more than any other ethnicity.
How do fibroids affect African-American communities?
Black women are affected with fibroids three times more than white women, with a lot more symptoms that are severe and with more cases of hysterectomy. It also develops in Black females at 5.3 years younger than the average.
Upon treatment, Black women are more likely to experience recurring fibroids or postoperative complications. Moreover, systemic racism makes it difficult for women in our community to access appropriate quality healthcare. A study shows that there is a perception among medical students that Black people are more tolerant to pain compared to their white counterparts which may be the reason why doctors tend to recommend irreversible and invasive procedures to Black women who suffer from fibroids.
Since a lot of Black women have fibroids and painful periods, this occurrence in the community seems to be normalized. Young Black girls think that these types of periods are normal which might cause them to needlessly suffer for a long time before seeking help. But they aren’t!
Black women shouldn’t have to endure these painful symptoms. We shouldn’t be told to just push through when we feel pain because of harmful stereotypes like the “strong Black superwoman.” There should be an end to medical gaslighting because Black women do not deserve to be dismissed or called hysterical.
Have you been diagnosed with Fibroids and in need of support in managing your symptoms? Book Discovery Call here so we can discuss ways on how to do just that! It is a safe space for you to discuss the symptoms you’re experiencing. Are you ready to take control of your body despite your fibroids?