Doctors Blamed Her Pain On Her Weight. Turns Out She Had Cancer.

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“If I would have listened to them, I’d be dead.”

When Elly Mayday started experiencing lower back pain two years ago, her doctors told her to do core-strengthening exercises and gave her pain medication.

As it turned out, the 27-year-old model had stage III ovarian cancer. “I felt really stupid for a really long time,” Mayday said in the StyleLikeU video above. “Going into the emergency [room] and someone’s just saying, ‘What do you want us to do for you?'”

Mayday is now in remission, but her experience is part of a larger trend of doctors not taking women’s health complaints seriously.

According to a study published in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine in 2008, women waited an average of 65 minutes to receive analgesia for acute abdominal pain in an emergency room setting. Men who presented with the same complaints waited only 49 minutes.

 

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 The Atlantic

 

How Doctors Take Women’s Pain Less Seriously

When my wife was struck by mysterious, debilitating symptoms, our trip to the ER revealed the sexism inherent in emergency treatment.

Early on a Wednesday morning, I heard an anguished cry—then silence.I rushed into the bedroom and watched my wife, Rachel, stumble from the bathroom, doubled over, hugging herself in pain.

“Something’s wrong,” she gasped.

This scared me. Rachel’s not the type to sound the alarm over every pinch or twinge. She cut her finger badly once, when we lived in Iowa City, and joked all the way to Mercy Hospital as the rag wrapped around the wound reddened with her blood. Once, hobbled by a training injury in the days before a marathon, she limped across the finish line anyway.

So when I saw Rachel collapse on our bed, her hands grasping and ungrasping like an infant’s, I called the ambulance. I gave the dispatcher our address, then helped my wife to the bathroom to vomit.

I don’t know how long it took for the ambulance to reach us that Wednesday morning. Pain and panic have a way of distorting time, ballooning it, then compressing it again. But when we heard the sirens wailing somewhere far away, my whole body flooded with relief.

I didn’t know our wait was just beginning.I buzzed the EMTs into our apartment. We answered their questions: When did the pain start? That morning. Where was it on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being worst?

Eleven,” Rachel croaked.

As we loaded into the ambulance, here’s what we didn’t know: Rachel had an ovarian cyst, a fairly common thing. But it had grown, undetected, until it was so large that it finally weighed her ovary down, twisting the fallopian tube like you’d wring out a sponge. This is called ovarian torsion, and it creates the kind of organ-failure pain few people experience and live to tell about.

“Ovarian torsion represents a true surgical emergency,” says an article in the medical journal Case Reports in Emergency Medicine. “High clinical suspicion is important. … Ramifications include ovarian loss, intra-abdominal infection, sepsis, and even death.” The best chance of salvaging a torsed ovary is surgery within eight hours of when the pain starts.

 

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