Abreast of the issue


I saw a male doctor about a lump in my breast (I asked for a female doctor, but none were available for a while, and I was worried).

He barely looked at where I was pointing, and almost couldn’t bring himself to touch where I said there was a lump. He sent me away telling me not to worry – probably something glandular (what did that mean? – he didn’t explain). I left feeling like he hadn’t properly checked; and like I’d been a silly thing, worrying; and like I should have been embarrassed, asking him (albeit qua medical professional) to check my body.

The extent to which his embarrassment hindered his professionalism became clear when I returned two months later (still worrying, still lumpy and now with it hurting) to a female doctor, who frankly examined by breasts, comparing them, prodding in all the relevant ways needed to confirm to herself, and to me, what was going on.

I am annoyed that the male doctor’s embarrassment about my female body had meant I hadn’t got a clear diagnosis (which turned out not to be problematic (but not to be ‘something glandular’ either)) and spent extra time worrying.


24 Responses to “Abreast of the issue”

  1. MEC Says:

    I am very, very glad you found out the lump wasn’t problematic. But I’m seething on your behalf. That doctor’s “embarrassment” might have had more dire consequences than extra time worrying. If it had been cancer, a delayed diagnosis could mean being treated too late to save your life.

  2. kly Says:

    I hope you have reported the male doctor whose discomfort at doing his job could have cost you your life.

  3. Blanco Says:

    How do you know it was because he was male? Bit sexist yourself there, arent you?

    • Dumb-check Says:

      Assuming he would have been okay with doing a chest exam on a male patient isn’t too far of a stretch. Calling this sexism isn’t jumping to any unorthodox conclusion, especially for a doctor.

      I love all these “No YOU’RE the one who’s sexist for calling it sexism” comments though. Really illustrates the point.

      • Anonymous Says:

        While this is a place to vent (and I still agree the woman was wronged in the situation), placing simple conclusions (such as that the doctor’s problem was merely because he was a male) on something like this without considering alternatives is what causes the problems on both sides in the first place.

        Sexism can start because a man makes an assumption about a woman based on outdated stereotypes, or when a woman does the same thing to a man based on the same flawed reasoning. And while the poster you’re replying to is being a bit trite and snarky to try and illustrate their point, replying with “this just proves the point” not only makes the issue worse but brings both genders further away from an actual solution and end to the problem. Nor is trying to lump in other medical practitioners, which is what your “especially for a doctor” seems to read.

        As a counterexample, I am a male and used to work in a daycare when I was younger, and was discriminated against by both fellow employees and the parents of the children under my care. If I said that my coworker’s distrust was due to gender only and not some other factor (inexperience, my age at the time, etc.), and “not that unorthodox, especially for a daycare worker,” would you find it as problematic?

        While I want to stress that the doctor was absolutely in the wrong here, the responses seem to be more exaggerated that necessary, and lead to more general derision and discrimination, exactly the kind of thing this site was established to try and fight. Anger doesn’t solve issues, nor do snide remarks or smarmy one-liners designed to inflame the other side. And it certainly isn’t going to make discrimination any less rampant.

  4. Mel Says:

    I tripped going up some steps a while ago and was badly bruised across the front of my breasts. A lump also came up, which still hadn’t gone a few weeks after the bruises had faded. I went to my doctor, thankfully a woman, and explained I was sure it was a bump not a lump but that I still felt I should have it checked out. She was nodding in agreement and approval even before I’d finished speaking and took checking me out very seriously. I was lucky but so many women aren’t. How many horror stories do we read about women’s concerns being dismissed and this costing them their lives? I’m so pleased you are well but I hope that you report this male doctor before someone dies because he is too embarrassed to do his job properly.

  5. buzzzkilllington Says:

    It might have been that he didn’t want to get too close to avoid any accusation of impropriety – you had specifically asked for a female doctor, after all. He still should have done a proper job though.

  6. The Heff Says:

    If your doctor (male or female) doesn’t explain something to you then you should speak up and ask for clarification.

  7. AFemale Says:

    A major part of sexism is the perpetuation of “meek, docile” women. Women are literally afraid to speak up to men of authority. Is it right? No. But it’s reality.

    No shit we SHOULD speak up. Let society stop calling us “bitchy” and “nagging” and then we will make this progress.

  8. Lollie Dot Com Says:

    This and the comments it generates reads like male doctors are poor doctors. This one doctor was very poor. But I haven’t seen any evidence that it’s because he’s a male.

    I can and do speak up, and no one has to quit calling me bitchy and nagging for me to start. MyFaultImFemale reads like a sexist rag to me. I’m a 57 year old woman and I don’t think we have to hate men or label all male doctors as bad or less good than all female doctors. It’s just not necessary or fair and isn’t that the point of feminism? To aim for fairness? Cause this site seems to be missing the mark by a long shot. Sign me, – MyFaultImFair.

    • Vee Says:

      Lollie Dot Com, you welcome to your opinion but I think you’ve missed the point here which is that sexism is still rampant and an unbelievable amount of men believe it is their right to be condescending towards women. What saddens me is the amount of women who have had personal experiences of sexism or sexual harassment, I wish there weren’t so many!

      You might not agree, but this is a great forum for women to speak up and have an outlet for the humiliating and frustrating situations they have been put it. I don’t think that anyone is saying that all men are jerks or all male doctors are bad and I’m sure the women that have posted on this forum still love the men in their lives (lovers, brothers, fathers etc) just the same.

      I have read all of the posts and most of the comments on this site and I haven’t found one woman that said she hated men or ranted incoherently for no reason. Almost all have been valid complaints about being treated in an unacceptable manner due to being a woman. I am very happy for you if this has not affected your life, or maybe you didn’t let it get to you, but many woman have had traumatic experiences, and I think potentially misdiagnosing a lump is just about the worst and not very fair at all.

    • Brie B. Says:

      Women can be sexist against women, and nobody here is saying they can’t. The fact that the majority of doctors (and people) mentioned on this site is more indicative of the fact that women do tend to understand women’s issues better and/or at least not be as dismissive of other women’s problems than evidence that the posters “hate men”.

      Criticism of someone’s behavior =/= condemnation of the entire class of people to which they belong.

  9. Caro Says:

    The *exact* same thing happened to me. I actually got the ‘they promote breast cancer awareness too much – it’s actually very rare’ speech as he ushered me forcibly out the door. When I tried to get any more information out of him he told me that cancer was unheard of at my age (24 at the time) and not to worry, it would ‘sort itself out’.

    When I finally saw a female doctor, she was worried enough that she called in a specialist, who was worried enough that she sent me in for an urgent ultrasound. Turns out I was fine, it was just stupidly thick glandular tissue on top of a weirdly placed rib, but I was livid, and I made an official complaint that was never followed up on by anyone. I tried three times to get ahold of someone to talk about the situation with, and got nowhere.

    As far as I know, that guy is still putting women in danger, and it pisses me right off.

    • Medea Says:

      My cousin is in her mid-twenties and is waiting for breast reconstructive surgery after a double mastectomy due to breast cancer. I’m really glad you got things checked out fully later. That doctor was so full of shit.

      They were surprised at it because of her age but that’s no reason to pretend it’s nothing.

  10. Deb Says:

    I’ve had several OB/GYNs in my life, because of insurance changes and the like. The women were just as likely to shove off my complaints as the men. It’s an individual thing, not a gender thing.

    I also had one outstanding male doc, and one outstanding female doc. And after 23 years of incredibly heavy, painful and debilitating periods, I got a partial hysterectomy at 35. Partly because my doc and her boss fought so hard with my insurance co. to get me relief from what had become a debilitating condition.

    They believed me when I said kids weren’t wanted. And they did what they had to to give me relief.

    It’s not a gender thing, it’s a professional thing.

    That being said, I hope you feel better and made a complaint about his unprofessional behavior.

    • CH Says:

      I don’t think the problem is necessarily that her doctor was male, but I do think that she was treated differently because she was female.

      I don’t know about in other countries but in the US heart disease is the number one killer of women, and research has shown that most women with heart pain are diagnosed with anxiety before they are given a CT scan. I think treating women as though they are hysterical or exaggerating when it comes to their health is still a major issue.

  11. hadge Says:

    ^ Follow Caro’s example next time: ask for clarification, and make a complaint! It is very important that you report shitty doctors.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    It’s also entirely possible his discomfort at the situation was due to implications of him actually touching your body. Sexual harassment is a pretty serious problem in the workforce, and especially in the medical field with bodily examinations. An avenue you may not have considered is that his lack of physically touching you was to protect himself from legal retribution should you feel as though he was unprofessional in any way. Combined with the comments a comment above made about you having asked for a female doctor, I may have been wary in the same situation.

    I’m not saying what he did was right, but assuming it’s just because he’s male and you’re female is almost as sexist as you make out this story to be. But I guess it’s #MFIM

    • Medea Says:

      He should have called a nurse in then. I’ve had male and female docs call nurses in during pelvic exams. The nurse is there for both our protection.

    • Kate Says:

      Hahaha that’s sexism for you! Somehow even though this woman felt completely let down by this doctor it’s still somehow her fault according to “anon”. It’s not the fault of women that some doctors have sexually assaulted or violated patients and therefore faced criminal charges.

      • Anonymous Says:

        I never meant to imply it was her fault, was merely offering another possible explanation. the doctor didn’t know her and could have made an assumption that she would sue if she felt sexually harassed, and she did not know the doctor and made an assumption he avoided examining her breast because he was a man and she was a woman.

        The doctor messed up, and that was his fault. Don’t try and twist my words to try and make me look like a chauvenist.

  13. Cassidy Says:

    Breasts are glands. So I think we can say with some certainty that the lump was “something glandular”. Who knew being a doctor was so easy!

  14. Kevin Lyda Says:

    But breasts are glands: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mammary_gland

    By going in and saying you had a lump on your breast you essentially said “there’s a problem with my glands.” All he did was repeat back what you said. By reporting the issue, you showed you knew that already – you wanted to know *what* problem there was.

    It’s like going to a mechanic, reporting a weird sound in the engine and being told, “it’s probably a mechanical problem.” Ya think?

    How was repeating back what you’d told him helpful? What were all those years in medical school for? Sheesh!

  15. Helen Says:

    I had this identical experience.

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