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Women Need Doctors Who Listen

By HERWriter
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When women get sick they don't look like men. Beyond the obvious, women's symptoms are different from men's. If a woman is having a heart attack, her arm probably won't tingle, she won't have sharp pain in her chest. Instead her stomach or her shoulder might hurt.

If she should conclude that she might be having a heart attack and heads for the ER, she stands a good chance of being dismissed because she doesn't show the "right" markers. Because she's not showing the same markers as a man.

There's dismissive and then there's dismissive. Sometimes women are offered trivializing advice, like suggestions that they get a new hair cut or a makeover. And sometimes women's symptoms are out and out ignored.

Dr. Nancy Klimas has heard it all from her patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome who have been dismissed by doctors not interested in caring for them. Her advice to women who have been dismissed is this. "If you find you simply cannot communicate or don’t trust your doctor to have your best interests in mind, find another! You have to be your best advocate. Value yourself!"


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EmpowHER Guest

I remember thinking this must be what women feel like while being trivialized at the doctors office or the workplace or anywhere else for that matter. I actually had a neurologist tell me "well you have all of the symptoms of CFS but that's mostly a woman's disease." Who knows what this knuckle head was thinking. As a man in this situation I'm probably more conditioned to deal with this the same as I would an incompetent auto mechanic or plumber, just take my business elsewhere. About a year later a very competent rheumatologist diagnosed my CFS and my severe osteoporosis. As a 50 year old man with years of weight training, running etc. the brittle bones were a surprise to me. I'm grateful this Dr did not overlook this as I was at extreme risk of a fracture at the time. After all osteoporosis is "mostly a woman's disease." So I take that pill once a week just like the little old ladies in the commercial and I take my business to that very competent doctor. I do wonder though how often people go undiagnosed just because of a doctor that is below average like the three others that overlooked my osteoporosis after seeing the same x-rays. I guess my point is there's probably as many men walking around with undiagnosed osteoporosis as women with undiagnosed heart disease and a lot of both with undiagnosed CFS.

May 27, 2010 - 4:20pm
(reply to Anonymous)

You did it exactly right, Anonymous. An incompetent or unwilling to communicate doctor should be jettisoned just like a bad plumber. We have been conditioned to take whatever we get from physicians because "they know more than we do." But that doesn't mean they know what they need to. Or that they care. If a physician is brilliant but won't tell you what is going on, that does no good, either.

I always tell people health care people are like everyone else. Some smart, some nice, some neither. 50 percent of physicians graduated in the bottom half of their class, right? Just like everyone else. So you are so right in saying if a doc is not a good fit, find a new one who is. Your life may depend on it.

Thank you so much for writing.

May 28, 2010 - 7:00am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.