Approximately 600,000 hysterectomies are performed annually in the U.S., making it one of the most common surgeries performed. This is a startling statistic because many women are recommended for this life-changing procedure without the option of non-invasive alternatives.
Kristina Omari was just one of many recommended for a hysterectomy by her OB-GYN. At the time she was 42. Although she had been attending check-ups every year, her doctor never mentioned that she had fibroids growing on the wall of her uterus.
“I was just surprised that through that process of going in for my annual physicals, I wasn’t given more education: ‘Your fibroids are located here. You may not experience symptoms, but they are growing,’” says Omari.
Not having symptoms isn’t entirely uncommon among women with fibroids. Many women never notice something is amiss. However, approximately 25% to 50% of women with fibroids struggle with heavy menstrual bleeding, frequent urination, and pain, which can lead to depression, reproductive health issues, and lower work productivity.
Black women twice as likely to receive a hysterectomy
After receiving the diagnosis, Omari learned more about the condition from her friends who had also been diagnosed with fibroids. Fibroids are common among Black women, who are at higher risk of developing the condition at a younger age. They informed her that there were many treatment options besides a hysterectomy including medications and myomectomy (a surgery that removes fibroids and preserves the uterus).
After finding out about these alternatives, Omari mentioned them at her next doctor’s appointment. However, due to her age, her OB-GYN was still adamant about performing a hysterectomy.
Black women often receive advice like this from doctors, which makes them twice as likely to have their uterus removed as white women.
Dr. Erica Marsh, whose work at the University of Michigan focuses on uterine fibroids and disparities in reproductive health care says hysterectomies have been historically overused for all women, especially those of African descent because many doctors focus on treatments they are comfortable with instead of considering what makes the most sense given the circumstance.
“Every patient has their unique set of symptoms and they have to be approached as an individual case,” she says. “Every patient’s goals are unique, their hopes are unique, their fears are unique.”
Why women agree to a hysterectomy
When recommending a hysterectomy, many doctors don’t take the time to