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Doctors Are Failing To Diagnose Black Women With PCOS

“I could barely stand, it was like my whole body had shut down”, said 22-year-old Courtney Boateng.  “I had to change pads every 45 minutes, I was bleeding through my clothes at home, and I could feel all these massive clots coming out of me. I could have filled buckets [with my blood]. It was the worst period of my life.”  This was the traumatic menstrual experience that ended up lasting for over two weeks and prompted Boateng to seek help with a medical professional. At the emergency appointment, the doctor told her that her symptoms were just related to her stress and her weight and sent her home with ibuprofen. It took her five gynecologist appointments over nine months for her to finally be referred for an ultrasound and ultimately diagnosed with PCOS. This experience is a common reality many Black women have in the healthcare system.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, commonly known as PCOS, is an endocrine disorder that affects from either 2% to 20% of women aged 18 to 44–depending on how one defines the criteria. PCOS is a set of symptoms caused by an elevated level of androgens (male hormones like testosterone) in a woman’s body that cause an abnormal amount of cysts or sacs on a woman’s ovaries. These hormones cause everything from prolonged menstruation cycles to no menstruation, to premature balding, to the appearance of hair in unusual places on a woman’s body, to excessive and sudden weight gain. It also often comes with painful, heavy-flow periods that can be extremely disruptive to a woman’s everyday life.

Not only that, but PCOS is the leading cause of infertility among women, causing over 75% of cases having to do with ovulation disruption.

An estimated 50% of annual PCOS cases go undiagnosed in the U.S., with many placing the blame on the ignorance of primary care physicians.

The reason that this disorder is so under- and misdiagnosed by doctors is that, often, many of PCOS’s symptoms (like abnormal periods, weight gain, and mood fluctuations) are mistaken for symptoms of stress, puberty, or sometimes, just chalked up to a bad diet. And perhaps above all, PCOS is a disorder that occurs only in women, a class of people that doctors notoriously don’t take as seriously.

Many patients also suspect that PCOS isn’t taken as seriously by doctors because it’s most likely to occur in overweight patients, with up to 80% of women suffering from PCOS also falling to the “obese” category. However, obesity is a symptom of PCOS, not a cause; the elevated levels of androgen hormones in a woman’s body make her blood sugar more resistant to insulin, making her more prone to weight gain. This also makes a woman with PCOS more prone to coming down with Type 2 Diabetes–a common condition associated with the disorder.

Many people believe that doctors’ responses to women’s health complaints are rooted in internalized, out-dated beliefs about “hysterical women”, a historical catchall mental disorder diagnosis that women were commonly diagnosed with starting in the 17th century. Still, these outdated beliefs about the fragility of female mental health persist today, with women being more likely to be prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications than men are (as opposed to pain medication or further testing) when they visit the doctor with pain.

To make matters worse, black patients are often (erroneously) thought by doctors to be more tolerant to pain than their white peers, as is exemplified in a 2012 study that found that black patients were 22% less likely than white patients to be prescribed pain medication by their doctors.

This theory about doctors’ beliefs was further proven when a study was conducted on 200 white medical students and residents. The students were quizzed on multiple old wives’ tales about different races, like the old one: “black people have ‘thicker skin’ than white people”. Half of the medical students thought one or more of the false statements were true, which gives weight to the theory that doctors don’t take black pain as seriously.

The one-two punch of being a woman and being black makes the doctor’s office an especially stressful place for an Afro-Latina to be.

This flippancy towards women’s health problems is exasperated in health care professionals’ treatment of women of color. PCOS is no more common in white women than black women, but black women are vastly less likely to be accurately diagnosed and treated for the disorder (as with many other health disorders).

So, unfortunately, like many health issues, black women are less likely to be taken seriously by doctors when it comes to PCOS. This is a particularly frustrating reality seeing as PCOS is treatable, with symptoms greatly improving through largely inexpensive lifestyle fixes such as adding diet and exercise programs into their daily regimens or simply taking hormonal birth control pills.

But as more and more studies bring to light the widespread reality of implicit bias among doctors, many black women are becoming frustrated at how they seem to be the ones getting the brunt of their doctors’ indifference. Although ovarian cysts can be detected via ultrasound, it’s often difficult for black women to be referred to ultrasounds by their doctors who aren’t taking their pain seriously.

Many experts blame doctors’ failure of black women on their implicit bias.

Implicit bias is defined by PubMed as “a negative evaluation of a person on the basis of irrelevant characteristics such as race or gender” caused by “ associations outside conscious awareness”. That means that some doctors may misdiagnose or under-diagnosed patients based on racist or sexist conclusions that they’re not even aware they’re making.

This problem of implicit bias among the medical community is exasperated by the lack of diversity among doctors, with only 5% being Latino (regardless of the fact that Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S.), and only 4% of doctors in the U.S. being black.

Linda Blount, president of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, is very matter-of-fact when describing the realities that implicit bias has at the doctor’s office: “We want to think that physicians just view us as a patient, and they’ll treat everyone the same, but they don’t,” she says. “Their bias absolutely makes its way into the exam room.”

Somewhat surprisingly, this bias transcends social and economic factors and has little to do with class. “When you look at inequalities in healthcare, you see a lot of studies tying the problems to race and poverty, but there’s not a lot about educated, insured black women who are not poor”, says Bette Parks Sacks, Assistant Professor of Social Welfare at UC BerkeleySacks. “Yet infant mortality rates for black women with a college degree are higher than those for white women with just a high school education.”

The under-diagnosis of PCOS in black women is just another example of the way the American healthcare system is letting down black women.

Because of the structural racism within the healthcare community, black women are often told that their very real symptoms are “all in their heads” or simply stress-related.

The most dangerous facet of this pattern is that once physicians decide that a patient’s symptoms are simply stress-related, they stop searching for another diagnosis. This leaves many Afro-Latinas struggling with their PCOS alone, believing that their long and intense periods, hair loss, weight gain, insulin resistance, and often, mood-related disorders, are simply a symptom of self-induced stress.

It’s time that women of color stop being told that all they need is an Advil and a yoga regimen to improve the sometimes debilitating symptoms of PCOS. What they need instead is doctors to get real to the internalized racism they may enacting, and start taking black women’s pain seriously.

‘Hamilton’ Star Miguel Cervantes And Wife Kelly Cervantes Share Touching Posts About Daughter’s Death

Things That Matter

‘Hamilton’ Star Miguel Cervantes And Wife Kelly Cervantes Share Touching Posts About Daughter’s Death

kellygc411 / Instagram

Miguel Cervantes, the man handpicked by Lin-Manuel Miranda to play Alexander Hamilton in “Hamilton,” shared the news of his daughter’s death. Adelaide Grace, his 3-year-old daughter, had been living with severe childhood epilepsy and was diagnosed with the disorder.

“Hamilton” star Miguel Cervantes and his wife Kelly Cervantes shared the sad news of their young daughter’s death.

Credit: kellygc411 / Instagram

“The machines are off. Her bed is empty. The quiet is deafening. Miss Adelaide Grace left us early Saturday morning,” Kelly wrote on Instagram. “She went peacefully in my arms and surrounded by love. Finally, she is free from pain, reactions and seizures but leaves our hearts shattered. We love you so much Adelaideybug and forever after 💔💜”

Kelly’s Instagram is filled with photos of Adelaide surrounded by her loved ones.

Credit: kellygc411 / Instagram

Adelaide suffered from consistent seizures and there was no cure for her disorder. While she was diagnosed with childhood epilepsy, the overall disease was neuro-degenerative, according to Kelly’s blog Inchstone. Kelly wrote the blogs to document and show readers the journey her family was facing every day with Adelaide’s deteriorating health.

Kelly detailed the decision to move Adelaide into hospice care earlier this year in a blog post titled “Dear, Adelaide.”

Credit: kellygc411 / Instagram

In the blog, Kelly reveals the work she and Miguel have put into Adelaide’s care. She admits that the focus of the family for so long was keeping Adelaide alive and in treatment but it finally became clear that things needed to change. In a heartbreaking decision, Kelly and Miguel agreed that it was time to move their daughter to hospice care and plan on making her remaining days as comfortable as possible.

“Becoming a parent is undoubtedly life-changing. But you, my dear, didn’t just change my life, you caused an eruption,” Kelly wrote in his letter to his daughter.

Credit: kellygc411 / Instagram

“As the pieces have fallen these last few years, I haven’t been sure what to make of the remnants. The once-familiar landscape was charred and with each step, I worried the ground might give way beneath me. You have been stronger than me every step of the way. Nothing has come easy for you, fighting for some of the most basic and essential life skills, then losing them and having to fight for them all over again,” Kelly wrote to her daughter. “I think that is why this next leg of the journey has been so hard for me to accept. We’ve been standing at the precipice for weeks? Months? I’ve allowed myself to be comforted by denial asking you to wait until I’m ready. Though I realize now, I’ll never be ready and even more so, that the timing is not up to me. You’ve been fighting for your life for so long and I can see now that you are tired. It is my turn to be the strongest… and let you go.”

Kelly continues in her letter showering her daughter with love and promises.

Credit: kellygc411 / Instagram

“I promise you, my angel baby, that your efforts, your fight, your life will not have been in vain. We will take the eternal lessons you taught us and continue to plant your seeds in the hearts of anyone who will listen,” Kelly wrote. “I promise you that I will never stop advocating on your behalf, raising awareness and money for research so that families in the future will receive their epilepsy, mast cell activation syndrome, dysautonomia, hypotonia or neuro-degenerative diagnoses along with a treatment plan to full recovery. I promise you that I will fight for science to catch up to the next child even though it could never catch up to you. I will fight so that you can rest, free from the pain this world couldn’t relieve. I love you so much, my Adelaidey baby. Your loss will shatter me in ways I never thought possible but you’ve provided us with everything we need to heal. When it’s time sweet girl, we’ll be with you, and forever after.”

The family is keeping Adelaide’s memory alive and raising money to research a cure for epilepsy.

Credit: cureepilepsy / Instagram

“I want a cure for epilepsy,” Kelly said, according to ABC7 Chicago. “I want the fear that people have of talking about it, I want that fear to end. I want my baby girl to live, and I don’t get that. So I’m going to fight like hell for the rest of it.”

Rest in peace, sweet Adelaide.

Credit: kellygc411 / Instagram

Your mom and dad are doing everything they can to keep the promises they made to you. Rest easy, little one. Your story has inspired people to fight harder to find a cure to the disease that took you too soon.

If you would like to help the Cervantes family fight to cure epilepsy, you can donate here.

READ: Puerto Rican Art Groups Are Getting A Leg Up Thanks To This Foundation Created By The ‘Hamilton’ Family

Ranchero Star ‘Paquita La Del Barrio’ Was Hospitalized Due To Pulmonary Complications

Entertainment

Ranchero Star ‘Paquita La Del Barrio’ Was Hospitalized Due To Pulmonary Complications

We still haven’t recovered from the passing of ‘El príncipe de la canción’ José José and we’re already being hit with more bad news. After much speculation on social media, it has been confirmed that the controversial and iconic singer Paquita La del Barrio was hospitalized this week for pneumonia and pulmonary thrombosis. 

Paquita La del Barrio changed the genre of Bolero music forever with her salty man-hating lyrics and ‘borrachera’ worthy songs.

credit Instagram @paquitaofficialb

In her over 50 years of creating music, ‘La Guerrillera del Bolero’, Paquita la del Barrio has gifted us with endless beautifully shady catchphrases to use on shitty exes; “Rata de dos patas”, “Cucaracha del infierno” and “¿Me estas oyendo inútil?” to name a few. Her man-hating words changed Bolero music for women and will be sung in tequila-induced ‘borracheras’ until the end of time. Paquita’s controversial, and sometimes salty lyrics have earned her a few enemies, to say the least, but the truth is that Paquita La del Barrio shattered glass ceilings in the genre of Ranchero, a world of male-dominated, misogynistic music, just by speaking her mind through music.

The feminist ranchera canceled a show for the first time in her career, due to health complications.

Francisca Viveros Barradas a self-proclaimed warrior against ‘machismo’ culture, canceled a show scheduled for this Saturday in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, due to health complications. Francisco Torres, her manager —also known as Paquito— said in a public statement for the press, that Paquita had complained of ongoing chest pains which eventually landed her at Hospital Angeles Lindavista in Mexico City. “Siempre te imaginas lo peor,” he said. It was later discovered that the pain was caused by a pulmonary embolism and pneumonia. The 72-year-old singer was checked into intensive care for a 24-hour watch.

Torres confirmed that Paquita’s health first raised concerns on October 8,  “She started with discomfort, her blood pressure, she said her chest hurt. That night the situation worsened, she couldn’t stand, she complained about chest pain, and the first thing that came to mind was ‘her heart’. A doctor came,  prescribed medication and administered her a sedative, we thought she’d be better by morning. But she wasn’t.”

The singer’s health is now improving and she’s no longer in ICU.

Credit Instagram @paquitaoficialb

‘Paquito’ went on to describe how the star’s health continued to deteriorate; “The next day she still had chest and back pain,” he said, “we decided to call an ambulance and take her to the emergency room.” Paquita La del Barrio’s manager explained that doctors diagnosed the singer with pulmonary damage due to the varying weather conditions the 72-year-old had been exposed to during her tour of the United States. “We know that weather conditions in the U.S. are more extreme, that was added to her condition, she resisted until her lungs collapsed,” Torres confirmed that Paquita la del Barrio was in ICU on October 10 but is now stable and her health is improving. It seems like the singer is recuperating just fine, but will still need time to heal, which is why she was forced to cancel the concert scheduled for this weekend. 

‘La Guerrillera del Bolero’ has sung against machismo for over forty years, and although she’s received a lot of criticism, her words have resonated with audiences worldwide.

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Way ahead of her time, Paquita has fought machismo singing from the stage for more than four decades. At 72, the feminist ranchera has released 33 albums which have been classified by the genre as “duros contra ellos” for her harsh words against men. Amongst her many shade-throwing songs are “Tres veces te engañé”, “Las mujeres mandan”, “Viejo raboverde”, “Hombres malvados” and many more. Her most famous hit “Rata de dos patas”, which has become somewhat of a hymn against men, was the song that sky-rocketed Paquita to fame. After this song went public, she went from singing at bars in the popular Mexico City neighborhood ‘Guerrero’, and moved on to perform on stages internationally.

Paquita’s life has been far from easy, and her story has been turned into a bio-series by Imagen Televisión.

credit Instagram @paquitaoficialb

Paquita is an idol for many Latino women who were touched by her words. But her life wasn’t always so glamorous. The singer’s life has already been immortalized in a bio-series broadcasted by Imagen Televisión. Through the series, we found out that she married a 42-year-old man when she was just fifteen. She had two children with him only to find out that the ‘rata de dos patas’ had been cheating on him all along and had another family in a different town. Her love life has clearly not been as successful as her career —which is true of a lot of women in many different industries. The singer, however, is now an artist consolidated as one of the most famous feminist performers Mexico has ever seen.