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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