By age 50, an estimated 80 percent of American women will have benign tumors in their uterus, called uterine fibroids. Of these women, up to half will suffer heavy menstrual bleeding and period pain. Large fibroids, depending on their size and location in the uterus, can also cause debilitating pelvic pain, urinary symptoms, bowel dysfunction, pressure within the abdomen and on adjacent pelvic organs, and interference with a woman’s fertility.
Unfortunately, uterine fibroids – like the women who have them – receive scant attention and inadequate support considering the condition’s toll on patient health and its overall financial impact. In terms of women’s lives, uterine fibroids are most common in women ages 25-44 and disproportionately affect women of color who experience fibroids at an earlier age, have greater bleeding, experience more severe pelvic pain, and are more likely to undergo a hysterectomy. At the same time, uterine fibroids are a significant economic drain on the U.S. health care system. Women undergo over 250,000 hospitalizations each year to treat uterine fibroids and the condition accounts for about one-third of hysterectomies in the U.S. Accordingly, some estimates put the cost of uterine fibroids, including lost work and disability, at between $5.9 billion to $34.4 billion annually.
Due to the many women affected and the number of hysterectomies associated with uterine fibroids, the National Institutes of Health considers this condition a public health concern requiring greater attention and action. Today, uterine fibroids are significantly under-diagnosed, under-treated and under-studied. As a result, too many women suffer for years in silence without getting an accurate diagnosis and timely medical treatment.