Must women bring a man along to help doctors believe us?

by Carolyn Thomas    ♥   @HeartSisters

This week, three books and three bold messages about the problem with male-centric medicine:  In her book Sex Matters: How Male-Centric Medicine Endangers Women’s Health, Dr. Alyson McGregor defines male-centric medicine like this: medical research and medical practice based on models historically designed to work in men, while ignoring the unique biological/emotional differences between men and women. In fact, she writes that the male-centric model of medicine is now so pervasive in health care that many of us don’t even realize it exists:

“Women who experience severe pain often have trouble convincing the doctor treating them of how serious that pain is. The more women protest and try to convince the physician, the more their behaviour is perceived as hysterical. This perception can work against them in the Emergency Department.”

If that’s where you are, Dr. McGregor warns: “the best thing you can do as a woman is to bring a man with you to explain your symptoms.”         .   Continue reading “Must women bring a man along to help doctors believe us?”

Women’s misdiagnosed heart attacks: the COVID long-haulers of cardiology

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

Ed Yong, my favourite Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer over at The Atlantic, wrote recently that, when he first started reporting on the medical phenomenon called “long-COVID” (meaning ongoing debilitating COVID symptoms that continue far longer than eight weeks), few scientists or physicians knew that it existed – and more importantly, many even doubted that it did:

“Some researchers still hesitate to recognize long-COVID if it doesn’t present in certain ways; they’re running studies without listening to patients. Long-haulers are growing frustrated that what is self-evident to them – that their condition is very real and in need of urgent attention – is taking a worrying amount of time to be acknowledged.”

That paragraph beautifully captures what women whose heart attack symptoms were initially dismissed have described as well – that sense of not being listened to during a heart attack that was “very real”.    .     .    .

Continue reading “Women’s misdiagnosed heart attacks: the COVID long-haulers of cardiology”

Discordance: when patients and docs aren’t on the same page

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

In her Netflix comedy special, “Not Normal”, Wanda Sykes recalls  having severe post-operative pain following the double mastectomy she underwent after her breast cancer diagnosis. She asked hospital staff for pain medication, but was offered only ibuprofen (or, as Wanda now describes it, “ibu-f***ing-profen!”)  Her white male friends, by comparison, told her that they’d each been given far more effective meds for far less severe pain after their own hospital procedures.

Her recommendation to women now is: “Bring a white man to do your complaining for you! ”   That’s pretty funny. But we all know that the reality is not funny at all.              .        .
Continue reading “Discordance: when patients and docs aren’t on the same page”

Why won’t doctors believe women?

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters 

A woman in one of my Heart-Smart Women presentation audiences told me about a conversation she overheard in our local Emergency Department, in which the physician said to the (male) patient in the bed next to hers:

“All of your cardiac tests came back ‘normal’, but we’re going to admit you for observation just to make sure it isn’t your heart.”

That story tells us that (unlike your average woman – i.e. me! – with cardiac symptoms alarming enough to propel her to seek emergency care, but unlucky enough to have tests that look “normal”), a man who shows up with both cardiac symptoms and “normal” test results does not need to fight to be believed. Continue reading “Why won’t doctors believe women?”

“Doing Harm”: Maya Dusenbery’s new book

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters 

Author Maya Dusenbery interviewed me while I was neck-deep in final copy edits of the book I was writing for Johns Hopkins University Press, A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease.  She wanted to talk about why I thought female heart patients are more likely to be under-diagnosed than men, and then – worse! – more likely to be under-treated even when appropriately diagnosed. Maya was writing her own book at the time, and it’s finally out this week. Its pithy title sums up the focus pretty succinctly: Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick. Here’s a 10-word summary of her book:

My own review of Dusenbery’s book starts with this warning to my heart sisters: “Do NOT start reading ‘Doing Harm’ unless you have first taken your blood pressure meds!”    Continue reading ““Doing Harm”: Maya Dusenbery’s new book”