The “It’s All In Your Head” Diagnosis Is Still A Danger To Women’s Health
Op Ed via Los Angeles Times, by Emily Dwass
…In my case, it took four years and several doctors before I learned that I had a meningioma, the same type of nonmalignant tumor that Menounos had. By then, the mass in my skull had grown to be the size of a baseball, causing permanent problems and making surgery much more dangerous.
Even after my diagnosis I had to contend with dismissive, condescending doctors.
While I was in the hospital recovering from a complicated brain surgery, I suddenly experienced muscle spasms. A young male doctor watched me convulse and intoned: “We don’t know what’s wrong with you — but we think the problem is all in your head.”
If I hadn’t been shaking uncontrollably, I might have laughed. (A female nurse correctly speculated that I was having a bad reaction to post-surgery steroids, given to reduce brain swelling.)
The “all in your head” misdiagnosis is still amazingly common. Doctors dole it out for neurological, autoimmune and even cardiac problems; they sometimes refer women for psychological evaluations before addressing their physical symptoms.
Menounos may have had such horror stories in mind when she thanked her doctor on Twitter for “…not making me feel like I was crazy.”
Doctors may fail to appreciate their female patients’ symptoms in part because medical research has historically focused on men.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, but, according to Harvard Health Publications, “many women say their physicians never talk to them about coronary risk and sometimes don’t even recognize the symptoms, mistaking them instead for signs of panic disorder, stress, and even hypochondria.”
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