COLLEEN OBRIEN

Colleen O’Brien: Female oncologist gives advice for women choosing a doctor

Mar 23, 2024, 2:00 PM | Updated: 4:37 pm

Photo: An unoccupied recovery area, left, and an abortion procedure room are seen at a Planned Pare...

An unoccupied recovery area, left, and an abortion procedure room are seen at a Planned Parenthood Arizona facility in Tempe, Ariz., on June 30, 2022. (File photo: Matt York, AP)

(File photo: Matt York, AP)

March is Women’s History Month which comes with a lot of celebration for the achievements and advancements made by women. However, society has a long way to go when it comes to treating females as equally important as their male counterparts.

Mayfield: Why centering more women’s voices matter this month and every month

Medicine, for example, has long been a place where women’s pain has been mishandled or downright not believed. I spoke with Dr. Elizabeth Comen, an oncologist and author of “All In Her Head: The Truth and Lies Early Medicine Taught Us About Women’s Bodies, And Why It Matters Today.”

‘We are afraid of making people uncomfortable,’ says Dr. Comen

“The opening of my book is a story of a woman on her deathbed and she would not be the first or last to apologize to me for something in that setting,” Comen said.

In this case, this woman apologized to me for sweating hours before her death. And in a given day when I see breast cancer patients, both who are sick or well, and I’m doing a breast exam, for example, almost every woman apologizes to me for something — not shaving their armpits, not having a pedicure or manicure, sweating during the appointment, asking too many questions. These are basic, either natural phenomena or basic needs that we have and yet mirroring a lot of what women deal with in society. I think we are afraid of making people uncomfortable, including in a doctor’s office and we disproportionately apologize for things that I don’t think we should be apologizing for,” she continued.

Speaking from my own experience, this does not surprise me. Women apologize for a lot — sometimes for just existing.

I’ve been trying to reverse this tendency. I have to say “sorry” when I’m simply standing somewhere and someone comes up alongside me. Like I’m in their way.

Women not getting proper treatment goes back historically

Back to medicine, Comen said women not getting the medical response or treatment they need goes way back in history and reversal of that bias has only just begun.

2016 study: Female physicians are paid $20,000 to $50,000 less than their male colleagues

“It wasn’t until 1993 that women were even required to be part of NIH (National Institutes of Health) funded clinical trials and minorities as well. So many of the drugs that we use, the devices that we use, the imaging techniques that we have, were based on this 70-kilogram reference male and did not include equal participation from women,” said Comen.

And that includes not only human subjects but when we look at drugs or techniques that were developed in the laboratory, it was often male animal models or male-derived cells that much of what we know about medicine was studied upon,” she added.

Comen shared advice for women before they choose a doctor and when they’re with a doctor. The full interview can be heard here:

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Colleen OBrien

Photo: A view of Mount Rainier is photographed from an Alaska Airlines flight flying at 25,000 feet...

Colleen O'Brien

Colleen O’Brien: Mount McKinley became Denali; will Mount Rainier’s name also change?

KIRO Newsradio historian Feliks Banel thinks Mount Rainier will go back to its original name "in our lifetime."

15 days ago

The U.S Supreme Court is photographed on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, in Washington. The Supreme Court is ...

Colleen O'Brien

Colleen O’Brien: Supreme Court grapples with Idaho abortion ban

In 2022, the right to abortion care was struck down and that's why we now find ourselves covering Supreme Court cases involving state laws around abortion.

21 days ago

Photo: Empty desks at Twentynine Palms Junior High School in Twentynine Palms, Calif., Aug. 18, 202...

Colleen O'Brien

Colleen O’Brien: Is the FAFSA loan worth the degree?

The government revised FAFSA forms to make them less cumbersome. But the rollout of this new form at the start of 2024 was less than ideal.

1 month ago

Image: Washington's 2nd District Representative J.T. Wilcox is resigning....

Colleen O'Brien

Colleen O’Brien: Rep. Wilcox explains why he’s leaving the legislature

After 14 years in the state legislature, Rep. J.T. Wilcox is resigning. He stated that younger leadership needs to take over.

3 months ago

AI layoffs...

Colleen O'Brien

Colleen O’Brien: Good news for jobs amid massive layoffs — AI engineers

Mike said there have been roughly 200,000 layoffs, broadly speaking, in the last two years. Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Meta are all involved.

3 months ago

This undated, colorized electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of...

Colleen O'Brien

The SMN Interviews: Latest COVID-19 variant escapes natural immunity

The most prevalent COVID-19 variant circulating right now is JN.1 and is a sub-variant of omicron. JN.1 is very infectious, according to Dr. Keith Jerome.

4 months ago

Colleen O’Brien: Female oncologist gives advice for women choosing a doctor