Unfortunately, getting dismissed or not given the proper attention by a medical professional is a sad reality for many women. This thread where u/VelvetDreamers asked women, "What’s your worst experience with a medical professional who dismissed you just because you’re a woman?" is filled with thousands of comments from women sharing their experiences — and it's heart-wrenching. Here is what some of them shared.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.
1."My appendix ruptured when I was 12. The primary care physician sent me into the ER for appendicitis. The nurse in the ER refused to treat me 'unless I told her how I got pregnant.' I kept telling her I wasn't, my mom kept trying to get any other staff to listen and check me, but the nurse wouldn't let anyone else check me. I was in the ER for 12 hours until shift change, and then the new staff panicked and got me into surgery."
2."This story is about my late mom. She had breast cancer and a mastectomy. No chemo because 'they got it all.' Seven years later, she complained of pain in her bones. She was referred to a PSYCHIATRIST because they thought she had 'empty nest syndrome.' She never went to the shrink and did not return to a doctor for a year, since her pain was, allegedly, not real. Turned out, she had the most common reoccurrence of breast cancer — it had metastasized to the bone. So we have a woman with a history of breast cancer complaining of pain in her bones, and they tell her it’s all in her head? It’s been 43 years, and I’m still not over it."
3."I discovered a lump in my breast while taking a shower. I was 33 and had just given birth a couple of weeks before. I, of course, went to the doctor to have it checked out. He told me not to worry, it's just a milk duct blockage that goes away while breastfeeding. The lump didn't disappear — it grew. I went back and asked for a mammogram. I was denied. I told him about the family incidences of breast cancer. He said I'm too young, it's unlikely I have breast cancer. I nodded and went to a doctor in the private sector instead. That was a woman. She immediately arranged an urgent appointment at the radiology for a mammography."
"At the mammography appointment, the picture confused the doctor enough to do a very long ultrasound of the tumor (it felt like ages) before he decided to take a sample. It came back as cancer, and post-mastectomy, it was classified as a pretty aggressive triple negative BC tumor type that's super rare.
Well, I'm not sure if it's because I'm a woman, but that was the biggest dismissal I have ever experienced. I'm glad I persisted in getting it checked, I was lucky. I've been in remission for 11 years. Oh, I also have a brca1 variant that makes my cancer hereditary. I was tested because I was so young and because breast cancer runs in my family trees from both my mom and dad."
4."For five years I had blood in the urine and always an urgency to go. A handful of doctors just shrugged, assuming I have a vagina that bleeds urine blood. They assumed because I'm sexually active that it must be a UTI. I used birth control to skip periods, and I still had urine in the blood. They still tried to blame my period. They tried to blame UTI even when no bacteria was found. Finally, I got an ultrasound. Turns out, I've been passing kidney stones the whole time."
5."When I was about 12, my arm started hurting. I was getting fevers and was in great pain. My mom finally brought me to a local orthopedist so he could check me out. For quite some time, he just said, 'Ah she is a whiny girl trying to avoid school and sports — typical.' One day my mom had enough and almost yeeted the guy across the room and demanded an X-ray scan. Turns out, it was cancer eating my bone away. He only said, 'Oh, sorry, I didn't know.'"
6."I went to the doctor with fatigue, nausea, and abdominal pain. He insisted I get a pregnancy test before proceeding with diagnosis, despite me telling him I had not had sex in a year. Sent me to get labs done, and asked me to come back in a month if the problem persisted. Came back a month later, took some more lab tests, same message. After a year, the lab tech pulled me aside and asked if I was okay because this was my 11th pregnancy test in a year. The doctor had just refused to try anything else and pregnancy tested me without telling me. Switched to a female doctor, and promptly received a PCOS diagnosis."
7."I saw a male doctor in the ER when I went in due to the worst headache of my life. He was annoyed at doing a 'migraine workup' even though I said I’d had an untreated aneurysm. Turned out, I was in an active brain bleed. I was disoriented and incoherent within an hour."
8."I was having a stroke. The doctor wanted to put me in observation. I had to advocate for my admission while I was also missing a lot of words and knew something was wrong. I ended up asking my husband to square it away. As soon as he stepped forward, the doctor backed down, and had me admitted. I was in the hospital for five days."
9."I was in labor with my first and had an epidural. I told the nurse that I could still feel pain, and she told me I was confusing it with pressure. Went through delivery with forceps, and she kept telling me to stop screaming, and that I was being hysterical. I needed stitches and felt every single one. Come to find out the epi tube wasn't taped down properly and had fallen out."
10."I showed up with extreme pain in my hip, causing me to have issues walking and needing to walk with a cane. The male doctor looked at me and said, 'Periods, right?' performed zero examinations, and sent me on my way with the instructions to use a heating pad and take some ibuprofen which I am extremely allergic to and is marked on my chart that if I take it, I will immediately begin to die."
"I went to a female doctor, and she was very concerned and helped me navigate the million referrals needed to land on the actual diagnosis, which was arthritis in my back that led to the nerve damage that was causing my pain."
11."I suddenly lost hearing one morning in my right ear at university when I was 20. I went to university health services and was told it was a cold. It didn't clear up after a week, and I went back. 'It may take a few months, you have small tubes.' It didn't clear up in a few months, went to my family's primary care physician. 'It's just a cold. If you lose some weight, it'll clear up faster.' I don't know where this woman got her medical degree. This continued for three years until my new PCP suggested I see an ear, nose, and throat specialist. The ENT sees me and says, 'You have sudden deafness. You should have gotten steroids the first time you noticed this three years ago. I can't do anything else.' WHAT? 'We'll do an MRI just in case.' Turns out, everyone was wrong. I have a brain tumor! It took me three years to get diagnosed because everyone was so incompetent."
12."The sad thing is that it's not just one big memorable case that happened once but so, so many little moments from way too many doctors (including female doctors). Starting with horrible period pains not being taken seriously for over a decade, because it's normal for girls to endure pain so bad you pass out from it once a month. I also suffer from excruciating chronic pain (nerves, joints, muscles, inflammation), and I kept hearing things like, 'Just go home and drink a glass of wine. That'll help with the pain.' Spoiler: It did not. 'How about you get pregnant? The hormones might fix you.' If you cry, your problems are mental. If you don't cry, it can't be that bad. It's especially frustrating when your illness is all over your body and in large parts invisible (or not detectable with the usual exams) because then, it's really hard as a patient to stand your ground."
13."I got told I 'couldn’t have a concussion' because my 'hair was too thick' after I got slammed into a cinderblock wall. When I went to the ER two days later, they found I’d had a minor brain bleed."
14."I had a C-section in June. I popped a stitch or two in the shower, and my incision ripped halfway opened. My doctor came in the next morning with plans to discharge me. I tried explaining to him that my incision was ripped open, and he insisted that it was normal for that to happen sometimes. My husband had to jump in, and my doctor finally took it seriously. This doctor also delivered my youngest a month early, without my full consent when I felt like she could've baked in me for a little bit longer. Thankfully, I'm done having children so I won't have to deal with seeing him anymore."
15."I went to my general practitioner and told her I was having severe anxiety (postpartum). She told me that's normal and to get more sleep and drink some tea. Six years later, things are way worse. I changed GPs, and she got me assessed right away, bam: panic disorder. I had been making it worse by trying to white-knuckle through it."
Have you ever had a similar experience? If so, share your story with me in the comments below.