June 26th, 2009
11:18 AM ET

Young women, don’t be afraid to press your doctors

By Naaz Malek
CNN Medical Intern

Kudos to my generation of women for being Empowered Patients! My generation is different from my mother’s. Young women today have resources, such as the Internet, that allows them to do their homework before a doctor’s visit and push harder for answers. Combine that with advancements in technology and the chances of detecting a problem earlier are greatly improved.

Take my 22-year-old friend for example. Let’s call her Sue. Her periods had recently gotten very painful. Her mother also had painful periods when she was young, but she never went to the doctor. Sue wasn’t going to sit this one out. She was miserable and she wanted answers. So she went to the doctor and after a sonography she found out that she has a small fibroid.

A fibroid is a tumor that grows inside a woman’s womb. In most cases it is non-cancerous. It’s common to see women in their 40s and 50s get a diagnosis of fibroids. But my friend is only 22! I didn’t think that was normal.

It turns out, I was wrong. I called Dr. Joanna Cain, chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology for Warren-Alpert Medical School at Brown University. She says fibroids are caused by increased levels of estrogen, and as young women are “at the height of hormonal activity” it is not uncommon for them to have this condition.

Dr. Melinda Miller-Thrasher, a doctor on the clinical faculty at Emory University, says she has been diagnosing fibroids in more females in their 20s in the past decade. Miller-Thrasher says this increase isn’t because more young women are developing fibroids. It is because they are going to the doctor as soon as they notice something unusual.

Because of the small size of the fibroid and her young age, my friend’s doctor asked her to just observe her period for time being. Thrasher says that sometimes the risks involved in removing a fibroid outweigh the benefits. Therefore in some instance not doing anything to the fibroid can be the best alternative.

So all Sue can do now is wait and watch to see whether her symptoms get worse. But at least she knows what’s wrong with her.

I’m proud of Sue for taking the initiative to find an answer, even though her mother didn’t.

Do you know anyone who benefited from going to the doctor as soon as he or she suspected a problem?

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soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    Just having this article being written about 'fibroids' networks more information about this particular problem to CNN readers to help themselves or possibly others. Not every medical problem is easy to diagnose so people need to be ready to relay information about their health problems when they do see their physicians. I've had some different health issues, but can only address them one at a time. I do know others that have benefited from going to a doctor as soon as a problem was suspected and managed to get diagnosis and needed treatment. Sometimes other health problems are more complicated.

    June 26, 2009 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. elizabeth

    I usually need a nap during the day. I have a thyroid condition. i am taking medication for over 10 years and my thryoid levels are always normal when i go to the doctor. However , i feel tired and sluggish. What could it be?

    June 28, 2009 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rose sandra

      Is my pleasure to comment on this site and i thank the admin of this site for his/her great work so far.one of the happiest moment in life is when you see your own wife put to bed.this awesome moments makes you a man, I really don't know how to thank DR Francis for helping my wife get cured for over how many year of suffering from FIBROID. i came across DR Francis contact through a headline news on internet about how DR Francis help a woman to get cured of his fibroid and so many other with similar body problem ,i contacted him and he told me how to get his herb,few day later he sent me the herbal portion which my wife take every morning for 10 days, and his medicine was able to shrike the fibroid naturally,and now my wife is 4months old pregnant for our second child, and now she very okay without any side effects whatsoever, If you have fibroid, you can contact him on his Email: address, francisemmanuel1122@gmail.com or on WhatsApp +2348164222865 for advice and for his product

      November 20, 2017 at 03:49 | Report abuse |
  3. Brett Hill

    Do you know anyone who benefited from going to the doctor as soon as he or she suspected a problem?

    As a firefighter/paramedic of 20 years in the Southern California area, I have to say many of the 20,000 or so patients I have seen waited until the problem became an emergency.

    Granted not all my emergency responses were "true" emergencies. But there was a large percentage of young females who had been suffering some type of OB issue–dealing with denial–dealing with "just wait and see if it goes away" type issues–before giving in and calling us.

    The human body has a very complex system of nerves that are there for very specific reasons. One of the most important reasons is to give the body advance notification that something is not right–something is wrong-something is about to go very wrong. More times than not, ignoring these early warning signs can lead to a true medical emergency and even at times, irreversible damage.

    All females of child-bearing age we responded on with abdominal or vaginal discomfort were considered pregnant until proven otherwise. What might have even been thought was a fibroid could be considered an ectopic pregnancy which could lead to severe complications and even death if not immediately treated. I even remember responding to one 20 y/o female patient with a history of fibroids who in fact was suffering from an ectopic pregnancy. She was completely helpless and totally dependent upon paramedics and doctors to save her life.

    We are not doctors but we are highly trained in emergency stabilization techniques that can buy patients more time until they see a physician or surgeon.

    Self diagnosing seems to be the trend with resources available on the internet today. Still, only an experienced doctor can provide the definitive diagnosis and ultimately treatment plan–unless of course you have mild cold or flu symptoms (these issues clog emergency rooms across out nation).

    I was unfortunately injured on the job back in 2006 and now pursue my work on a private more global level with the goal of preparing patients for their own personal medical crisis and equally preparing paramedics, doctors and nurses to treat them with meaningful medical history available electronically–and immediately!

    Moral of the story:
    1. Don't ignore your built in warning system
    2. Utilize resources online to investigate but don't rely on self-diagnosing–you are not a doctor and can't afford to be wrong (it only takes one time)
    3. Utilize your medical insurance for routine medical examinations or "well care" to catch things early (especially in your 40's and 50's)
    4. Exercise–exercise–exercise! (one of the most beneficial preventive measures)
    5. See your doctor when the warning signs fire off–or wait if you prefer a myriad of sirens, being strapped to a gurney and being rushed off to a hospital via paramedics.

    Brett Hill- Founder
    EmergiLink, Inc

    June 28, 2009 at 16:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Maria

    I'm a third year medical student, which means I noticed every little symptom that I get. But when I go to the doctor about something and tell them that it's something I'm concerned about, I always get brushed off. I've switched physicians, but I feel like they just look at me like a paranoid med student (which most of us are!). But still, I can't help but really think there's something they're overlooking. I can't stress the importance of telling your doctor how you feel and every symptom no matter how trivial. I'm not saying they'll run ever test in the book, but it'll at least give them something to think about it anything changes in the future. They can say, "Oh yeah, I remember you complaining about that a few visits ago and now you say it's getting worse."

    June 29, 2009 at 09:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. CA Dover, NH

    Unfortunately, I seem to be surrounded by women (family and friends) who spend more time taking care of their husband's and children's health rather than their own. I experienced the dangers of this self-neglect when my mother developed some internal bleeding, but then decided she would "wait and see" if it would go away. Two days later, after she turned white and could barely stand, she went to the hospital only to discover that three ulcers in her uper GI tract all broke open at once. She needed four units of blood transfused and she required another 10 days in the hospital before she was even remotely ready to go home. All this and she would't have gone to the hospital if I hadn't brow-beaten her into it.

    Women, we need to remember we're just as important as the men and children in our lives. If something's not right, check it out!

    June 30, 2009 at 18:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jennifer

    Thank you for discussing this topic of teaching young women to press their doctors. I come from a family of nurses and always had a great deal of respect and admiration for doctors and mistakenly thought they knew what always needed to be done to help me. Turns out I needed to be more pro-active to get the help I need but it has taken me years to realize it.
    Over the last 5 years, I have had a very difficult time getting medical professionals to listen to me about my incredibly painful and disruptive menstrual cycles. I am each time rendered helpless with very little warning time to find a quiet spot to lay down and have been caught in my car, at work and terrifyingly in public where I have had to literally crawl into restroom stalls to wait it out to when I can move again. I am almost always moved to vomit and moan with such gut wrenching pain in my abdomen. The whole ordeal is so very embarrassing.
    My back story is that I am 34 years old. I got these pains as an adolescent and was put on birth control. At 29, I stopped taking birth control as my husband and I decided we were not going to have children so he got a vasectomy-now making birth control pills unnecessary. I was told over and over all I can do is go back on birth control which I was not willing to do so I was told to "take Advil" and suffer with what was called, "good ole' cramps". I was so offended to be brushed off like this that I did see another doctor, and another and another and by the fourth one I was finally so distressed (and it's 5 years later so do the math on how many painful periods that is!) that I was nearly in tears explaining myself once again why I was there and praying this one did not roll their eyes at me as well and "prescribe" advil-first 600mg then 800mg and now I'm at 1000mg-surely there is more to health care than "prescribing" advil!! Anyhow, all this is to say-yes-keep asking! I finally found a doctor willing to even look and see if I had anything wrong and this one ordered an ultrasound. I go in today and although I of course hope there is nothing there-I will at least feel like somebody cared enough to check and I'm not going to die from some ailment that went unchecked! Prior to this no other doctor ordered any test-NONE. Thank god for him and for doctors who listen.
    One other story-this one is shorter-10 years ago I developed an allergy to Neosporin or topical antibiotic. As a poor artist-I went to clinics and no one could tell me what was wrong, why my cuts (tiny cuts-paper cuts even!) did not heal, so they told me to put Neosporin on the wound, which is what I was already doing, and that was that. This was making it worse! I even went cross country to my childhood doctor thinking that the clinics was the problem and she had no idea and said the same thing-use Neosporin on it. Finally in desperation I scraped up $100 for an office visit and I went to 'specialist' aka a dermatologist and he told me to "not be so cheap, obviously it's an allergy to topical antibiotic-stop using it and you'll be fine." He was right after years of worrying-that's all it was but again-it was the 4th doctor who could answer the question. (And sadly he didn't have to be so mean about it, that's much of what I remember now 10 years later-being berated for being "cheap"-easy to say when you have the money and health care-not so easy to do when you don't!).

    July 2, 2009 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Ruchita

    It was great reading this post. I am having similar problem like sue. But it surfaced nearly 10 years after I started getting PMS. I had been to gynecologist to get some medicine, but according to her 9 out of 10 females have this problem. I was lucky all these days not to have that problem, but now I am part of the group. I am advised to take pain killer as soon as my periods start, not waiting for pain to start. Is taking pain killer so regularly advisable?

    July 10, 2009 at 17:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. SRR

    I pressed my doctor and was also diagnosed with a fibroid at 26. My story is pretty much the same as Sue. Watchful waiting sounds terrible, but I will see what my doctor says on Thursday.

    July 3, 2012 at 01:27 | Report abuse | Reply
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