Oh, hey, check it out, fat women are less likely (some articles are saying as much as 40%) to be screened for breast and cervical cancers!

Nobody is checking fat boobies.

Researchers are, of course, flummoxed as to why the difference. If it were in my power, I’d send them all a link to First, Do No Harm. That ought to clue them in.

Get your female parts checked, y’all. Early detection is vital when it comes to cancer.

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  1. Posted March 26, 2008 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    And if your doctor incessantly whines about your weight being in the way of her checking your girly parts properly, a) find a different doctor, or b) suggest an ultrasound since the doc is obviously not bright enough to come up with this notion on his/her own (hence a).

  2. Lily
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Or find a midwife. IME they tend to be less uptight about weight differences, and more of an empowering bent in general. They can do well-woman exams in most states.

    A doctor gave me the whine of “ohhh you’re soooo fat I can’t find your cervix!” I told my midwife about it (through a pounding heart and held-back tears, afraid she’d shame me too) and she sighed and said “well, I guess that doctor isn’t very skilled, is she?” It’s so true.

  3. Posted March 26, 2008 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Love your curves! Have them checked regularly!

    (Says the woman who just had her first pap in five years on Monday.)

  4. Posted March 26, 2008 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    If money or health insurance is an issue, you might be interested in knowing that may be able to get free or low-cost screening (and you live in the U.S., but if you don’t, you probably HAVE health insurance).
    Here’s a link to the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program:
    And here’s the link to find a local program

  5. TR
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Alix, if that is happening, I so SO in favor of option A! But option B is good for those who are more tolerant than I.

    Mary Sue, rock on!

  6. Posted March 26, 2008 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    If you need to get the ladies checked, as for an MRI if you are very large busted. I have read a lot about this in preparation for when my time comes, and apparently the traditional method of squishing boobs like pancakes isn’t nearly as reliable for women with dense breast tissue, and MRI is. You may have to fight the insurance company to get it covered, but especially with a family history of breast cancer, you should be able to manage it.

    Just thought that worth a mention! :)

  7. TR
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Lily, that midwife hit the nail on the head.

    Wellroundedtype2, THANK YOU for that link. Some of the studies seem to have focused on white middle class women (of COURSE they did *snort*) but I think this problem extends across socio-economic and racial boundaries.

    Juliet – I’ve never heard of that option. Thanks for the headsup!

  8. Posted March 26, 2008 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    I get the checkups every year and have never had a doctor say he/she had problems finding my cervix. Hell, I can usually find it with no problems.

  9. littlem
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    What Alix said.

    That is all.

  10. KC
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    I went for my first mammogram last year. There was one size robe to wear. It was marked ‘large’ and I could barely hold it closed with one hand gripped over my breasts. The robe gaped above and below. Whatever, we’re all girls. But then they found ‘something’. I had to go back, same robes, but now also a sonogram which involved walking down a hallway, sitting in a waiting room next to men for 30 minutes next to a very popular doorway, exam, waiting again for results, back and forth for 2 HOURS with my tits hanging out. By the time the doctor told me it was just a cyst I was in tears.

    Six months later, going in for a follow-up, the exact same thing! This time sitting in the waiting room at sonogram next to male medical supply reps, dressed in suits, chatting on cell phones. Again long waits with my breasts exposed while people come and go through the door. This time the tears began before they even got me to the sonogram exam room. I mentioned the robe to 2 women technicians and was given a sympathetic smile and that’s it.

    I have to go back in 6 months and I swear to god if my mother and grandmother hadn’t died from cancer I would skip it. As it is I called and spoke to a supervisor who apologized, told me that they were ordering new, larger robes, booked my next appointment and asked me to call her when I’m coming in.

    One of the many things that upsets me about this is that this is a first-class, gold-standard hospital. Movie stars come here. I’ve had other procedures done in robes that fit. As I said to the supervisor and also to the hospital when I complained via e-mail – this is a very stressful thing under the best of circumstances and I can’t possibly be the only fat woman who needs a mammagram.

    I’m already dreading September.

  11. TR
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    KC, call them and tell them you are bringing your own robe. There is no reason whatsoever that you should have to take the chance on their paper robes. Maybe that will help alleviate some of the stress – because, really, your situation is stressful enough. *HUG*

  12. Posted March 26, 2008 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I know there’s a study that shows something horrifying like 30-40% of docs admit that they don’t like doing pelvic exams on fat women (and we can assume breast exams aren’t much better). Unfortunately, I don’t have a link handy and can’t remember where to find it.

  13. TR
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Oh! That’s the same study that said the same percentage of doctors think of fat patients as uncooperative and not as smart and all of that bullshit!

  14. Posted March 26, 2008 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    KC, sometimes I’ve actually refused to wear the robe if it didn’t fit properly and stayed in my own clothes. This works best if you’re wearing simple clothes with no metal buttons and zippers, etc. Sometimes that’s not an option though. Large drugstores and medical supply places sell gowns up to 10XL, definitely get your own. It can also help if you wash it beforehand in hot water and safe bleach and seal it in a zip-lock bag to show the staff you’re conscious of the idea in some clinics that the gown is for hygiene reasons.

  15. LonieMc.
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Is this the study yall are talking about: Schwartz, Marlene B., Heather O’Neal Chambliss, Kelly D. Brownell, Steven N. Blair, and Charles Billington. “Weight Bias among Health Professionals Specializing in Obesity.” Obesity Research 11 (2003): 1033-1039.

    If not, I would love to have an idea where to look so I can put it on the Fat Facts Wiki.

  16. LonieMc.
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Nevermind. I just saw Kate’s post with the links.

  17. Posted March 26, 2008 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Ooh, that might have been it, LonieMc. I found another one–Brownell and Pugh–that says 17% of docs don’t want to do pelvics on fat women, which is obviously way lower than what I thought, but still pretty horrifying.

  18. SP
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Lily, my doctors have always had trouble “finding” my cervix, including when I was a size 6. Your doctor was just being a jerk–it wasn’t your fault. So glad you found someone better.

  19. Lily
    Posted March 26, 2008 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    Yeah I knew it wasn’t my fault, she just said it in such a snide way I felt bad anyhow, if you know what I mean. I even told her it was probably because I was ovulating (I was trying to conceive, and new from charting my cycles that the cervix goes way up high when you’re fertile) and she just pshawed.

    My midwives have never had any trouble examining me or palpating baby or anything. And I am a big, big girl. So feh to that doctor.

  20. Posted March 26, 2008 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, TR, I’m glad I could post those links but I’m sure access isn’t the main reason fat women don’t seek health screenings. Sometimes I feel like I need to hide my public health side, but every once in a while, it proves helpful.

  21. eviltammy
    Posted March 27, 2008 at 4:30 am | Permalink

    One place to get your own hospital gowns:


    I’ve never bought a gown, but I did get some stuff from them years ago. Most of the time when I go for an exam, I just wear a skirt or dress and slip off the undies. For the one mammogram I’ve had, I think I wore a shirt that buttoned. Luckily, I’ve not often needed a gown, but when I did, they had ones that fit. They may have had to go find them, but they had them.

  22. Posted March 27, 2008 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Juliet – thanks for the tip! I didn’t know that one.

  23. DJ
    Posted March 27, 2008 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    I submit to my regular mamograms and pap tests because of a family history of both breast and uterine cancer but I HATE it. I am always nervous with a new doctor, though my current physician is ok most of the time. Wonder how much of the reported mortality risks for obese people are due to not getting regular medical care out of fear of the doctor shaming them?

  24. Posted September 19, 2008 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    Wait a minute.

    Maybe doctors do the exams on fat women they’re supposed to, but then do unnesecary exams on thin women.

    Or some sick combination of both.

    I hate like like all of humanity after reading this. I am enraged.

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