Numerous studies have shown that women's pain is not treated as seriously as men's pain.
Sometimes, that can lead to misdiagnosis and dismissal of serious diseases.
Three women had their pain ignored by doctors, only to have serious conditions including cancer.
It's no secret that women's pain is taken less seriously by most medical professionals than men's pain. In the past several decades, multiple academic studies have found that not only do doctors think women experience less pain than men, but women are also less likely to receive adequate treatment for their pain — even though 70% of chronic pain patients are women.
And when women experience pain in the pelvic area, it is not uncommon for doctors to attribute it to "women's issues" of menstruation or menopause, without doing a thorough work-up. It doesn't matter if a woman is famous or not — female celebrities, including TV personality and conservationist Bindi Irwin, have reported suffering the same issue.
Recently, Insider told the stories of three women who were dismissed by doctors and told they were experiencing "women's issues," when in reality, they were experiencing severe conditions including endometriosis that needed surgery, and cancer.
Here are their stories:
A celebrity had her pain dismissed for 10 years — she recently had 37 lesions removed
Bindi Irwin, the 24-year-old TV personality and daughter of the late conservationist Steve Irwin, opened up on Instagram about her endometriosis diagnosis and treatment in an effort to help other women with the stigmatized disease, Insider reported.
Irwin said that she struggled with "insurmountable fatigue, pain & nausea" for a decade, but multiple tests, doctor's visits, and scans didn't yield satisfying answers.
"A doctor told me it was simply something you deal with as a woman & I gave up entirely, trying to function through the pain," Irwin wrote in her post.
Finally, Irwin was diagnosed with endometriosis — a condition affecting one in 10 American women that occurs when tissue similar to the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus. The tissue thickens and bleeds with each month's menstrual cycle, but becomes trapped, which can lead to pain and complications including infertility.
Irwin underwent surgery, and said that surgeons found 37 lesions, some of which were "very deep & difficult to remove," and a chocolate cyst, or a cyst filled with menstrual blood, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Irwin said she wants her post to be validation for others that their pain is real and that they deserve help.
A woman was told her heavy periods were normal, but it was an early sign of cancer
Kelly Pendry, 42, started experiencing pain and heavy bleeding in 2016, after the birth of her second child. She told the BBC that her doctors attributed her symptoms to her recent pregnancy and suggested she take a contraceptive pill or get an IUD to regulate her period. Another practitioner prescribed her antidepressants for her symptoms, Insider wrote.
"I felt like I was a drama queen," the UK-based Pendry said, according to the BBC. "I felt like I was overthinking it, I felt like, 'is this in my head a bit, is this stupid?'"
Despite bleeding more days than not, Pendry had to wait five years to get an accurate diagnosis. Finally she was diagnosed with a rare form of uterine cancer called uterine leiomyosarcoma — but with all the time that had passed, her cancer was determined to be terminal.
Now, a year after completing chemotherapy, Pendry told the BBC she still experiences fatigue, aches, and hot flashes as a side effect of hormone inhibitors meant to stall the cancer's growth. Her cancer has been stable for a year, but she knows it could progress at any time. Her husband, Michael, is planning an 180-mile charity run in hopes of raising money for her to get surgery in the US.
A 12-year-old girl was told she had a hormone imbalance and an irregular period — it was ovarian cancer
After getting her first period at age 10, one girl, whose case was recently described in the American Journal of Case Reports, did not have a regular cycle for the next two years. Some menstrual irregularity can be normal, especially in young girls, but this girl started complaining of frequent abdominal pain as well, Insider wrote.
At age 12, she started leaking a milky discharge from both breasts, which led her doctor to test her hormones. The results confirmed that the girl was not pregnant. However, her prolactin levels — the hormone that triggers milk production — were off the charts.
Doctors initially diagnosed her with a hormonal imbalance originating from the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain. But eventually, they found out that her left ovary had been completely taken over by a three-pound tumor caused by a rare case of juvenile ovarian cancer.
The doctors ended up having to remove the three-pound mass along with her left ovary, and she was discharged from the hospital after four days.
Read the original article on Insider