Senator Kamala Harris Introduces Fibroid Bill to Improve Women’s Health
Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act corrects health inequities
Vice Presidential candidate and current U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) has introduced the Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act. This legislation is designed to fund medical research and improve patient awareness about the common condition of uterine fibroids.
Uterine fibroids are benign noncancerous tumors affecting women. Fibroids, also called leiomyomas, are made of muscle cells that form into balls and grow in the uterus. Up to 80% of women will develop one or more uterine fibroids during their lifetime.¹
Scientists do not know exactly why some women get fibroids. Genetics and family history play a role, as having a family member with fibroids increases the risk. Fibroids are most common in African-American women affecting up to 50%.
Senator Harris discussed the importance of her bill, stating “Complications from uterine fibroids can lead to maternal mortality and morbidity, an ongoing crisis, especially for Black women. We have an opportunity to change that with the Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act.”
This bill was also introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (NY-11). “This disease has ravaged the lives of women across the country, and increasing funding for research and public education related to fibroids is critical to reversing that trend. If we are serious about fixing inequities in our healthcare system, then we must treat uterine fibroids with the funding and attention it deserves,” said congresswoman Clarke.
What are the symptoms of uterine fibroids?
Not all women with fibroids have symptoms. The fibroid’s size and location in the uterus impact the potential for life-disrupting symptoms. Fibroids increase blood flow to the uterus causing heavy and painful periods.
Fibroids can also affect fertility and increase the risk of miscarriage. Most fibroids do not cause pregnancy problems, but they do increase the risk of preterm labor and fetal growth problems.
Size matters with fibroids. Large fibroids lead to bulk symptoms. These include:
- Painful intercourse
- Pressure or abdominal fullness
- Increased abdominal size
- Frequent urination
- Low back pain
The location of the fibroid inside of the uterus plays a role as well. These symptoms include:
- Heavy periods (menorrhagia)
- Painful periods and cramping (dysmenorrhea)
- Bleeding after sex (postcoital bleeding)
How are fibroids treated?
- Hysterectomy: A hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus. Approximately 40 % of hysterectomies in the United States are performed because of fibroids.² While a hysterectomy is the most definitive treatment for fibroids, it also is the most invasive.
- Myomectomy: A myomectomy is a surgery to remove individual fibroids while preserving the uterus. The size and location of the fibroids in the uterus determine the type of myomectomy. Myomectomies provide highly effective relief for fibroid symptoms. The original fibroids do not grow back, but new fibroid may develop.
- Uterine fibroid embolization: Uterine fibroid embolization is a highly effective option for women who wish to preserve their uterus and avoid surgery. An interventional radiologist performs this procedure through an IV without surgery. Occluding agents placed into the blood vessel supplying each fibroid starves the fibroid of blood, causing it to shrink.
- Radiofrequency fibroid ablation: The Acessa procedure is a minimally invasive, outpatient treatment for fibroids of all types and sizes and in all locations within the uterine wall. This laparoscopic surgery is performed through small incisions. Heat is used to destroy fibroid tissue causing the fibroid to shrink over time.
- Endometrial ablation: Endometrial ablation is a short, outpatient surgical procedure to treat abnormal uterine bleeding without the need for incisions. The process destroys the endometrial lining, the tissue responsible for menstrual bleeding. Endometrial ablation does not treat or shrink fibroid but is an effective option to control the associated bleeding.
- MRI guided Focused ultrasound: This newer treatment treats fibroids through high-intensity ultrasound. Under MRI guidance, focused ultrasound waves pass through the skin to destroy the fibroids.
How will the Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act help with Fibroids?
The Uterine Fibroid Research and Education Act would:
- Provide $30 million annually to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to expand research on uterine fibroids.
- Expand the Chronic Conditions Warehouse Centers for the Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) research database to include data on the services provided to women who experience uterine fibroids’ symptoms.
- Create a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uterine fibroids public education program to spread information on uterine fibroids.
- Direct the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), in consultation with medical societies, to develop and disseminate information regarding uterine fibroids to health care providers, including the elevated risk for women of color to develop uterine fibroids and the available treatment options.
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- Wallach EE, Vlahos NF. Uterine myomas: an overview of development, clinical features, and management. Obstet Gynecol. 2004;104(2):393–406.
- Whiteman MK, Hillis SD, Jamieson DJ, et al. Inpatient hysterectomy surveillance in the United States, 2000–2004. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008;198(1):34.e1–34.e7.