I’d never heard of the heart condition called Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) until I attended the WomenHeart Science & Leadership patient advocacy training at Mayo Clinic in 2008. SCAD, I learned back then, was a rare and often fatal condition, seen mostly in young, healthy women who have few if any cardiac risk factors. But in a recent interview, cardiologists who specialize in this frequently misunderstood diagnosis added some surprising updates to what is now known about SCAD. . . Continue reading “How I used to describe SCAD. And what I’ve learned since.”
When my heart sister Katherine Leon was featured in The New York Times earlier this year, I was thrilled. Katherine, like me, is a graduate of the WomenHeart Science & Leadership patient advocacy training at Mayo Clinic. She told the Times of undergoing emergency coronary bypass surgery at age 38, several days after her textbook cardiac symptoms had first been dismissed by doctors who told her, “There’s nothing wrong with you.” .
Continue reading ““There is no gender bias in medicine. Because I said so…””
I was happy to see Katherine Leon featured in The New York Times recently. Katherine, like me, is a graduate of the WomenHeart Science & Leadership patient advocacy training at Mayo Clinic. She told the Times of undergoing emergency coronary bypass surgery at age 38, several days after her severe cardiac symptoms had been dismissed by doctors who told her, “There’s nothing wrong with you.”
She isn’t alone. Many, many studies have shown that female heart patients are significantly more likely to be under-diagnosed – and worse, often under-treated even when appropriately diagnosed – compared to our male counterparts. This is especially true for women with her condition (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, or SCAD) that was once considered to be a rare disease.
Dr. Sharonne Hayes is also featured in the NYT piece; she’s a respected Mayo Clinic cardiologist, longtime SCAD researcher and founder of the Mayo Women’s Heart Clinic. (You can read their story here).
But almost as soon as the Times piece was published online, I was gobsmacked to see some of the reader comments coming in – especially comments from people like these: . Continue reading “Is SCAD rare? Or just rarely diagnosed correctly?”
As part of my occasional Dear Carolyn series featuring my readers’ unique narratives about how they became heart patients, I offer today a medical mystery from an Oregon reader. After dueling physicians differed in their opinions of her diagnosis, Lynn Bay now wonders if she actually did have a “real” heart attack, as one of them had diagnosed. Her story may seem familiar to you if you’ve ever had your medical experience dismissed or minimized. Here’s Lynn’s story, with her permission: Continue reading “Dear Carolyn: “Did I have a ‘real’ heart attack?””
by Carolyn Thomas ♥ @HeartSisters
Do you know the difference between a medical condition that’s underdiagnosed, and one that’s misdiagnosed? I thought you’d never ask. . . Underdiagnosis is a failure to recognize or correctly diagnose a disease or condition, especially in a significant proportion of patients, as in: “Heart disease in women is still being underdiagnosed compared to our male counterparts.”(1) But misdiagnosis is an incorrect, partial or delayed diagnosis of one individual’s illness or other medical problem, as in: “I left the Emergency Department with a misdiagnosis of acid reflux despite my textbook heart attack symptoms of central chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain down my left arm.”
The trouble is this: the more that misdiagnosis happens to individual women, one after another, the more likely we are to continue seeing underdiagnosis of women heart patients as a whole. Thank you to these heart patients who shared their own experiences of surviving a misdiagnosis: Continue reading “Women’s heart disease: is it underdiagnosed, or misdiagnosed?”
As a person who lives with and writes about coronary microvascular disease (MVD), I feel lucky that my family doctor, my cardiologist and my pain specialist are all believers. It’s like the trifecta of diagnostic wins for a heart patient! I say that because one of my blog readers, after asking her physician if her puzzling cardiac symptoms might be due to MVD, was told:
“I don’t believe in coronary microvascular disease.”
I guess it’s time to remind such physicians that we’re not talking about Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy here. Continue reading “My medical diagnosis means more to me than to you”