Uterine fibroids: benign, common and sometimes debilitating : Short Wave Fibroids are benign uterine tumors. So why does it matter that the majority of people with a uterus will have one before they are 50 years old? Physician Rachell Bervell, founder of the Black OBGYN Project, explains that when symptoms arise, they can be quite serious — from extreme menstrual bleeding to fertility problems. Plus, why they're very likely to affect you or a loved one.

Curious about other health issues? Email us at shortwave@npr.org.

Up to 80 percent of women will have a uterine fibroid by age 50

Up to 80 percent of women will have a uterine fibroid by age 50

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Earlier this year, Virginia designated July as Uterine Fibroids Awareness Month. Tatyana Antusenok/Getty Images hide caption

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Tatyana Antusenok/Getty Images

Earlier this year, Virginia designated July as Uterine Fibroids Awareness Month.

Tatyana Antusenok/Getty Images

When Tanika Gray Valbrun was 13 years old, she got her first period at a family function. It was apparent because she was wearing white shorts and because her flow was heavy. That heaviness persisted each time she got her period, along with intense pain.

It wasn't until her mid-twenties that Tanika would find out these debilitating periods — and ongoing fertility struggles — were caused by fibroids, benign uterine tumors. But just because they aren't cancerous doesn't mean they can't cause problems.

When symptoms do arise in people with fibroids, Rachell Bervell, physician and founder of the Black ObGyn Project, says they can be quite serious.

Curious about other health issues? Email us at shortwave@npr.org.

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Today's episode was produced by Berly McCoy and edited by Rebecca Ramirez. Berly and Rebecca checked the facts. Maggie Luthar was the audio engineer.