Courtesy of Shannon S. Evans/The White Dress Project Inc.
Courtesy of Shannon S. Evans/The White Dress Project Inc.

The White Dress Project, a black-owned national nonprofit aiming to raise awareness of uterine fibroids, recently held an interactive discussion fundraiser in northwest D.C., where the region’s top medical professionals addressed education and treatment options for the affliction that disproportionately affects black women.

The July 13 event at the Eighteenth Street Lounge, dubbed “A Night in White,” also tackled other female health concerns but focused largely on fibroids, which nearly 90 percent of black women will develop by the age of 50, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

The White Dress Project, which is leading a push in Maryland to officially designate July as Fibroid Awareness Month, emphasizes that though chances of developing fibroids increase with age, the ailment can also affect young adults.

“Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths on the female uterus that can cause sterilization and the need for hysterectomies in women,” said digital strategist and project supporter Jennifer Branison. “There is such a stigma associated with fibroids. Many women young and old suffer every day in silence and seem to rarely discuss this issue with other members of their family. That’s why in 2014, Tanika Gray, in order to bring about more information and awareness, formed this organization.”

Studies show that fibroids usually begin to grow in women of color at childbearing age, with those affected having higher risks of obtaining multiple fibroids. Key factors including obesity, low levels of vitamin D and high blood pressure.

Rae Oglesby, communications director of Black Women’s Health Imperative, a national organization focused on health and wellness, said discrimination and the resulting stress may be one of the biggest causes.

“We have what we call ‘Index for Us’ which is our first health index of black women and it’s based on the research from the Boston University Black Women’s Health study,” Oglesby said. “And what it seems is that … discrimination and the stress that it causes puts women of color at higher rates of fibroids.”

Despite the high rate fibroids for black women in comparison to the 70 percent of white women who will reportedly struggle with the issue, White Dress Vice Chair Rashetta Fairnot said all women should look into their family lineage and share personal experiences and information.

“Share your story and experiences with other women,” Fairnot said. “While dealing with my own battle with fibroids, I was stunned to learn that many people in my family, including my mother, had dealt with fibroids before but never spoke about it.

“We have to take charge of our health and be our own advocates and start asking real questions with other women most importantly including family members and health professionals and get real answers,” she said.

Though more research is still being done on preventative measures and possible treatments, Branison says seeing what women survivors look like is just as important.

“This is an annual fundraiser that we do to offer support for those suffering or those that know others who suffer and present a platform for others to see what women survivors look like,” she said. “You’re not alone in this fight and we want all women to know that.”

Lauren M. Poteat

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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