Sharp, crushing pain? Lose some weight.

Kate writes…

About two and a half years ago, I went to a new gynecologist because I’d gotten a new job and had changed insurance plans. I was going for a routine checkup, but I was also having occasional sharp pains in my lower abdomen, mostly on my right side. I’d gone to my primary care provider first, because some of the pains had been on the left and my mother had voiced concerns about appendicitis. When I pointed to the painful areas, my PCP said the pains were in my ovaries and were probably ovarian cysts bursting. She told me to see my gyno.

I figured the cysts were the same as the ones that had been coming and going in my breasts for a few years. I had my first mammogram at age 20 and several ultrasounds, not to mention four different biopsies. Everything had come back benign; I thought this would be more of the same.

So I went to my gyno, who immediately dismissed my pain, saying that it would go away if I lost weight. Despite my asking what she thought the pains WERE that could be alleviated by weight loss, I didn’t get an answer. But since I’d had other cysts, I wasn’t particularly concerned, and the pain seemed to come less frequently, so I put off finding a new gynecologist for awhile.

Six months or so later, my company had changed insurance providers, so yet again I had to find a new gynecologist. I got lucky this time and found one who didn’t think my pains were weight-related. Unfortunately, by the time I got in to see her, I was only able to jump the list because my pain had gotten much worse and was now accompanied by a large growth.

After many, many pelvic exams, ultrasounds, and CT scans, I was finally told I had a large tumor in my right ovary. The surgeon told me there was a 70 to 80 percent chance that the tumor was benign–but that also meant there was a 20 to 30 percent chance it was malignant. And there was no way of knowing until they could remove the tumor and do a biopsy.

In March of 2006, I had surgery to remove the tumor, which thankfully turned out to be benign. But by the time the surgeon had an opening, the tumor had grown. It was over eight inches long and three inches wide by the time it came out. And since it had been inside my ovary it had strangled and crushed the ovarian tissue. There was no way to salvage it, so when the surgeon removed the tumor, he also took out my right ovary and Fallopian tube.

I still have the left one, but there have been a few cysts in that one too, so I now have ultrasounds twice a year to ensure that my remaining ovary is still healthy. I have to take birth control pills on a ten-week cycle, meaning I only have a period four times a year. There are benefits to that, but while the hormones in the BCPs are helping my ovary, they’re increasing the occurrence of cysts in my breasts. Something of a catch-22.

Considering my history of breast cysts, it’s possible that I’d have had the ovarian cysts anyway. But if that first doctor had listened to me, she might have caught the cyst before it grew into a tumor and destroyed my ovary.

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6 Comments

  1. geekgirlsrule

     /  December 27, 2007

    I hope you reported her to your state’s medical board, including the results of your exams from your new doctor.

    Doctors like that will never be punished if we don’t report them.

    Reply
  2. lilacsigil

     /  December 28, 2007

    I started off the same way as you, but a competent GP and a competent (and also fat!) gynaecologist checked me out properly with ultrasounds and a biopsy. In my case, it was just cysts – and proper treatment, check-ups and the same contraceptive routine as you has kept things under control. So you’re entirely right to blame the gynaecologist’s incompetence for risking your life.

    And any half-competent doctor should know about the link between weight-gain and PCOS anyway, rather than just telling you to lose weight! Seriously, this is terrible. I’m glad that the tumour was benign, though.

    Reply
  3. Kat

     /  December 28, 2007

    I lost a fallopian tube to an ovarian cyst as well. My cyst was the biggest my doctor had ever seen (it grew very quickly between my 2 ultrasounds, which were about 5 months apart). It held over 2 liters of fluid. They saved my ovary though. I have PCOS.

    Reply
  4. You might actually have a malpractice suit against that first gynecologist – the damages being that by delaying the diagnosis and thus the surgery, you had to have a more serious operation than you might have otherwise, and as a result you lost an ovary.

    I hope you don’t mind my asking, but when you were having the pains, what did they feel like, and how long did they go on for? I’m asking because once, about 15-20 years ago, I was diagnosed with PCOS, but the only treatment the doctor gave me was to tell me I was hypoglycemic (without doing a test) and give me a hypoglycemia diet to follow. The diet made me feel about a hundred times worse, but she said she would not continue to be my doctor if I didn’t follow it, so I found a new doctor. None of the subsequent doctors that I’ve seen were concerned about it, or they were totally unfamiliar with it – at least up until the one I’m seeing now. Unfortunately, my weight has increased enough to where I’m in that lovely “superobese” category, and ultrasounds really don’t show enough to be useful. On top of that, I usually can’t fit into most MRI/CAT type machines – and when I can, it’s pretty traumatic because I’m horrifically claustrophobic. Still, if what you had sounds like what I’ve been having, I may see if he can do more research and find some other method of determining what – if anything – is going on in there.

    You’re welcome to email me if you prefer – thorswitch@livejournal.com – and if you’d rather not talk about it in any more detail, no problem at all – I understand about that!

    Reply
  5. coyote

     /  January 30, 2008

    I really want to encourage people to consider malpractice. my boyfriend works for a very reputable firm who has been able to help an awful lot of people who have been misdiagnosed. Not all malpractice firms are ambulance chasers, and you will need to call around to find someone you are comfortable with.

    But please, please do it.

    Reply
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