A lack of awareness surrounding uterine fibroids and non-surgical fibroid treatment options is among the findings in a new report from the USA Fibroid Centers who conducted a national women’s health survey to better understand the factors that affect women’s health care choices. Key findings in the USA Fibroid Health Survey were
that age, income level, health insurance and health care proactivity all affect fibroid health outcomes that affect almost 80 percent of women by the age of 50.
Since many women’s health conditions have overlapping symptoms, the USA Fibroid Centers
conducted a national survey that examined women’s understanding of symptoms, wellness screenings, diagnosis and treatment options. The survey asked 24 questions in the following categories: period variance, medical knowledge, medical history, health care preferences, cancer and abnormal Pap tests.
Although the survey inquired about broader women’s health topics, the report primarily focuses on responses that relate most directly to uterine fibroid symptoms, care and treatment. Survey participants ranged in age from 18 to over 64, with income levels ranging from low to more than $100,00 per year. Nearly half of the participants older than age 25 had never heard of fibroids.
Uterine fibroids, also called leiomyomas, are firm, compact tumors made up of smooth muscle cells and fibroid connective tissue, and can vary in size from as small as a seed to as large as a melon.
“Uterine fibroids account for half of hysterectomies performed annually in the United States, which research has shown that a large percentage are medically non-necessary,”
said CEO and Founder Yan Katsnelson. “Non-surgical options, such as uterine fibroid embolization, offer a high success rate of removing tumors, relieving symptoms and offer the additional benefit of preserving fertility, yet many women are unaware and often not informed of less invasive treatment options.” UFE also has less risk and a shorter recovery than surgery.
The survey confirmed that UFE is one of the least-known available fibroid treatments. In fact, 64 percent of respondents stated that if they discovered they had uterine tumors, they would immediately schedule the recommended procedure, which in many cases was a hysterectomy. Only 23 percent of respondents indicated they would seek a second opinion and perhaps learn about less invasive techniques.
UFE also involves less pain and risk than fibroid surgery. During a UFE procedure, an interventional radiologist uses ultrasound mapping to locate the fibroids. A tiny catheter is inserted into the thigh and embolic material is injected into the uterine artery. This material blocks the fibroid’s blood supply and nutrients, which causes it to shrink and eventually wither away. It is extremely rare for fibroids treated with UFE to regrow in the future.
Prior studies have shown women of childbearing age are most likely to be affected by uterine fibroids, with a majority being diagnosed in their 40s. More than one in five survey participants said they suffer from heavy periods or severe cramps, both key indicators of uterine fibroids. Although the vast majority were familiar with ovarian and cervical cancers, less than half had heard of uterine fibroids which are much more prevalent than other types of tumors in the reproductive tract.
The survey also provided detailed findings regarding insurance and access to care. Of those surveyed, 72 percent had health insurance, 11 percent had high-deductible insurance and 14 percent had no health insurance. Women in lower-income brackets are less likely to be accurately diagnosed with fibroids due to a lack of health insurance or the inability to visit the doctor for other reasons.
The impact of insurance dramatically
impacted treatment. If respondents learned their medical issue would not be covered by insurance, 10 percent would cancel and 24 percent postpone an upcoming doctor appointment. Additionally, 20 percent would either not undergo or delay treatment and a little more than one-third would choose a cash option if available.
Although most major health insurance plans cover fibroid treatment options, the report confirms women without health insurance, or with high-deductible insurance, were more likely to cancel or postpone doctor appointments, ignore their symptoms, and ultimately not receive essential treatment.
Doctor visits are critical for increasing awareness of uterine fibroids. Of women who don’t attend their annual wellness exam, 62 percent weren’t familiar with fibroids. By comparison, this drops to 41 percent for regular attendees.
The results of the USA Fibroid Women Health Survey revealed a notable lack of awareness surrounding uterine fibroids and non-surgical fibroid treatment. The release of the report coincides with Fibroid Awareness Month.
“We know that if left undetected, fibroids can continue to grow and cause increased symptoms, impact fertility and potentially harm surrounding organs,” Katsnelson said. “It is clear that being proactive with one’s health is key for understanding uterine fibroids, fibroid symptoms and potential treatments.”