Black Women with Endometriosis or Fibroids Have a Higher Ovarian Cancer Risk

Editor’s Note: We believe that patients are a key part of developing and leading the conversation in disease communities. Patient Worthy sometimes partners with reputable agencies that wish to speak with patients about opportunities related to their diagnosed conditions. These opportunities can include activities such as sharing stories with other patients or health professionals about their diagnosis journey or recording video testimonials. To learn more about how to get involved with an opportunity for individuals impacted by endometriosis, fibroids, or ovarian cancer, click here.

Nearly 50% of biological females will develop fibroids in their lifetime. Uterine fibroids are benign (noncancerous) growths of the uterus. In many cases, fibroids appear during childbearing years. While fibroids may, in some cases, cause symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding or constipation, many individuals don’t even realize they have them. However, shares an article in Axios, fibroids have now been linked to a heightened risk of developing ovarian cancer in Black and Caucasian women.

In a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, the authors sought to understand whether any racial differences existed in ovarian cancer risk in women with either endometriosis or uterine fibroids. Altogether, 3,124 Black women and 5,458 Caucasian women participated. This is important as previous studies have failed to include enough Black women. As a result, we – prior to this study – had a minimal understanding of the relationship between uterine fibroids and ovarian cancer risk within this population.

Of the participants, 200 Black women and 302 Caucasian women had endometriosis; 1,350 Black women and 1,174 Caucasian women had uterine fibroids; and 1,008 Black women and 2,237 Caucasian women had ovarian cancer. After analyzing the data, the research team discovered that fibroids and endometriosis both increased the risk of ovarian cancer in both groups. The risk was reduced in Caucasian women whose care plan included a hysterectomy, but this was not seen in Black women.

The study authors believe that more research is needed to address health inequities and structural racism within medicine, with a particular focus on understanding how to improve care for Black women.

About Ovarian Cancer

Women have two ovaries; these almond-shaped organs store eggs and produce estrogen and progesterone (hormones). But when cancer forms in one or both of these organs, it is called ovarian cancer. Epithelial tumors form in the thin layer of tissue covering the ovaries, while germ cell carcinoma tumors begin in the cells that form the eggs and stromal carcinoma tumors form in the connective tissues. In rarer cases, someone with ovarian cancer may have small cell carcinoma of the ovary; this rare tumor accounts for just 0.1% of all diagnoses. In many cases, the exact cause of this cancer is unknown. However, a smaller subset of individuals develop this cancer due to BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations. Having a BRCA mutation makes it 30x more likely to develop ovarian cancer than the general population. Symptoms may vary from person-to-person but can include:

  • Abnormal uterine and vaginal bleeding
  • Endometrial hyperplasia
  • Tender breasts
  • Abnormal vaginal secretions
  • Abdominal pain, swelling, and bloating
  • Pelvic pain
  • Appetite loss
  • Changes in urinary urgency or frequency
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Increased testosterone and associated virilizing symptoms

If you have ovarian cancer, please speak with your doctor about your best course(s) of treatment. You may be treated with chemotherapy, radiation, targeted drugs, or surgical intervention.

Editor’s Note: We believe that patients are a key part of developing and leading the conversation in disease communities. Patient Worthy sometimes partners with reputable agencies that wish to speak with patients about opportunities related to their diagnosed conditions. These opportunities can include activities such as sharing stories with other patients or health professionals about their diagnosis journey or recording video testimonials. To learn more about how to get involved with an opportunity for individuals impacted by endometriosis, fibroids, or ovarian cancer, click here.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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