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Doctors Are Failing To Diagnose Black Women With PCOS

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“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.

A Judge In NY Has To Decided If Unvaccinated Children Should Be Allowed In School Risking The Lives Of Other Children

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A Judge In NY Has To Decided If Unvaccinated Children Should Be Allowed In School Risking The Lives Of Other Children

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Just two months ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that mandates vaccination for children old enough to attend schools, and participate in education with other children, unless otherwise advised by a doctor. The legislation came after the spread of misinformation about vaccines caused a series of measles outbreaks in the spring. Scientific literature based on decades worth of data from tens of thousands of children has proven vaccination safe and effective for the public.

Attorney’s Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Michael Sussman filed a class action suit for about three dozen parents who claim that vaccinating their children goes against their faith. Wednesday, Albany courtrooms were packed with over 1,000 anti-vaxxers who wanted to hear how the judge would rule in a debate around religious freedom vs. public health.

The crowd of anti-vaxxers wore white in reference to the Argentine mothers who wore white as they protested their government’s brutal killings and disappearances of their liberal children.

Credit: @GwynneFitz / Twitter

The anti-vaxxers feel that the implication of the government forcing them to vaccine their children from measles is tantamount to the Argentine government killing or “disappearing” 30,000 young, leftist political activists from existence in the 1970s. 

In April 1977, 14 mothers, wearing images of their missing children’s faces around their neck, marched around the Presidential Palace in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. They took a stand against a violent government in a defiant act to demand justice for their children.

These New York parents also feel the law doesn’t allow enough time to find proper education for their children. 

Credit: @GwynneFitz / Twitter

The demonstrators told Gothamist reporters, Gwynne Hogan and Claire Lampen, that “the new law effectively disappeared their children from the school system.” If the religious exemptions aren’t upheld, their alternative would be to homeschool their children or move to a different state.

“[We’re] hoping that our kids are granted the right to go back to school. Our children have been kicked out,” Long Island mother Amy McBride, 41, told Gothamist. “We’ve all been meeting, trying to look at curriculums, understand how to make it work, what the regulations are, understanding what it takes to actually do that…Our beliefs are steadfast and sincere and true and we’re not going to cave.”

The lawyers in the case argued that legislators demonstrated “active hostility toward religion.”

Credit: @GwynneFitz / Twitter

“[These children] are going to have nowhere to go to school…They have no idea what they are going to do with these children,” Sussman said. New York State attorney Helena Lynch refuted that claim. “The actual legislative record is so clear that the motivation was public health,” Lynch said. “The right to religious expression does not encompass the right to place others in danger.”

Lynch also expressed that legislators aren’t targeting religious groups but are genuinely “skeptical” that those choosing not to vaccinate their kids were expressing personal beliefs rather than religious ones. The crux of the argument seems to rest on public health risk for allowing the religious exemption, especially when an approximate 26,000 children would be unvaccinated in New York schools.

The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Senator Brad Hoylman from Manhattan, specifically wanted to eliminate the religious exemption as the key reason for the recent spread of measles.

Credit: @GwynneFitz / Twitter

You have a First Amendment right to practice your own religion, but you do not have the right to endanger your children or worse other people’s children,” he told a press conference. Already, 14 percent of pre-school aged children in Williamsburg are estimated to be unvaccinated for religious reasons or otherwise. Another 28 percent in Rockland County were unvaccinated.

The anti-vaxxers expressed that they wished New York followed in California’s suit by allowing a year for the law to take effect. But public health advocates cite a sense of urgency for public safety measures, “This needs to be done, not tomorrow, not in a week, not in a month, and not in a year,” said one activist. “It must be done immediately, the numbers are gaining strength.”

Crowds packed even this overflow room as they waited for the judge’s answer.

Credit: @GwynneFitz / Twitter

They never heard it. Judge Hartman hasn’t made her decision yet about whether to allow 26,000 unvaccinated children go to New York schools in time for school start dates just three weeks from the hearing. The anti-vaxxers want her to put a stay on the state law which would allow those children to go to school while she continues to hear the case and make a final, permanent decision.

READ: A 12-Year-Old Mexican Boy Hilariously Trolled Anti-Vaxxers In This Viral Video

This Horrifying Story Of A Woman Losing Her Hands And Legs Will Make You Think Twice About Letting Your Dog Kiss You

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This Horrifying Story Of A Woman Losing Her Hands And Legs Will Make You Think Twice About Letting Your Dog Kiss You

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We all love our puppies. There’s a reason they are called man’s best friend. They are adorable, loyal and sweet little pals who only want our affection and attention. However, giving them that much-deserved affection can sometimes backfire in a life-changing way — as it did for one Ohio woman earlier this year.

After nine days in the hospital, a woman woke up to find her hands and legs amputated and the reason behind their loss was a rare infection caused by puppy kisses.

The nightmare started after the woman returned home from a vacation to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

Twitter / @cnni

When  Marie Trainer returned from her trip, she experienced a backache and nausea that caused her to take time off of work. Soon, her temperature began fluctuating wildly — spiking and dropping sporadically. The sudden changes to her temperature and her worrisome symptoms landed her in the local emergency room on May 11.

When first admitted, Trainer was delirious and she soon fell unconscious. Doctors first suspected that the problem was some sort of tropical disease picked up from her travel to the Caribbean. However, this wasn’t the cause. It took the hospital seven days to eliminate that possibility and find the real cause of Trainer’s illness.

Trainer had contracted a rare infection from the bacteria Capnocytophaga canimorsus.

Twitter / @KXXVNewsNow

Doctors say bacteria was probably introduced into Trainer’s body when her German shepherd puppy, Taylor, licked an open cut somewhere on her body. As the infection took its course, the Ohio woman’s skin began quickly changing to a purplish-red color before progressing into full-blow gangrene in her extremities. She soon developed a blood clot that threatened Trainer’s life. The discoloration also spread to the tip of her nose, ears, and face.

While being hospitalized at Aultman Hospital in Canton, Ohio, Trainer was treated by Dr. Margaret Kobe, the medical director of infectious disease. Kobe shared with CNN the process of identifying and treating Trainer’s illness.

“It was difficult to identify, We’re kind of the detectives,” Kobe explained. “We went through all these diagnoses until we could narrow things down. She didn’t lose parts of her face. But her extremities is what she had to have surgery on. This is off the scale, one of the worst cases we have seen in terms of how ill people become with infections. She was close to death.”

However, Trainer’s family wanted to get a second opinion before they made the life-changing decision to amputate.

Twitter / @WVTM13

Hoping to save Trainer’s legs and hands, her family reached out to see if they would get a less severe diagnosis. However, the damage was too extensive and had already corrupted the tissue in her extremities. Doctors confirmed the diagnosis of Capnocytophaga through the use of blood tests and cultures.

Trainer’s family then gave permission for her treatments. Trainer has now had eight surgeries and will soon be fitted for prostheses on her arms and legs. Gina Premier, Trainer’s step-daughter and a nurse at the same hospital she was treated at, spoke with CNN about the prognosis

“That was a pretty hard pill for us to all swallow,” she admitted. “To say she was fine a couple days ago on vacation and now she’s actively getting worse by the minute and now her hands and feet aren’t alive, like this doesn’t happen, it’s 2019.”

While this is a cautionary tale for all dog-owners, Trainer’s cause is a rare one.

Twitter / @ConLaGenteRos

This news has us seriously rethinking how we show our pups affection and vice versa. According to the Center for Disease Control, the bacteria is present in as many as 74% of dogs. However, most people who come into contact with infected dogs and cats don’t get sick themselves. The bacteria poses a greater risk to people with weakened immune systems, the elderly and children. Once contracted, symptoms of the infection usually manifest in three to five days. Three in ten of those who develop a severe infection will die because of Capnocytophaga.

Though changed forever, Trainer is grateful to still be living and is ready to move on to the next chapter of her life.

Twitter / @beshade1977

Though the bacteria was introduced via one of her dogs, Trainer has no intention of giving her pups away. In fact, she was eager to see them while she was still hospitalized. She asked doctors if her two furry friends could visit and they were happy to accommodate the request.

“They brought them here two times at the hospital so I can see them and that just put the biggest smile on my face,” Trainer told CNN.

It just goes to show that nothing can stop puppy love — not even a major bacterial infection.

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