For those who don’t know, Keke Palmer has been waging a war against her PCOS. As a very outspoken advocate for her health, Palmer has been honest and upfront about her journey, her trials and tribulations, and the daily fight she has.
But what exactly is PCOS? What are the symptoms? And why does it take so goddamn long to diagnose? We’ve got the scoop.
What is PCOS?
View this post on Instagram
PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. It’s a life-long diagnosis that can cause female infertility due to higher levels of androgen (male hormones). PCOS can also cause a slew of other health conditions. More than 50% of women will develop type 2 diabetes, and there’s a higher risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and stroke, due to cholesterol and white blood cells blocking blood vessels.
Symptoms for PCOS include missed, irregular, or light periods; ovarian cysts; excess body hair; acne and/or oily skin; thinning hair and weight gain.
The Difficulty of Diagnosis
View this post on Instagram
One of the main problems with PCOS: there are so many risks, and yet there is no test to check for PCOS. Doctors must monitor symptoms of the above in order to assess the possibility of PCOS. This can cause months, if not years, to get a proper diagnosis. On top of that, symptoms of PCOS may match symptoms for more well-known medical issues –- that’s why you have to know your body well and be your biggest advocate.
As Keke Palmer put it: “[PCOS] has been attacking me from the inside out my entire life and I had no idea…my blood tests were fine. But it took ME taking a personal look into my family that has a history of diabetes and obesity, to understand what was ACTUALLY happening with me.”
Systemic Racism in Healthcare
Another large problem in the healthcare industry: systemic racism, either consciously or subconsciously.
Some statistics include:
– Black patients were 40% less likely to receive pain medication (American Journal of Emergency Medicine)
– Black women are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women and are twice as likely to die if they are over 50 (American Cancer Society)
– In emergency care, doctors were less likely to classify Black children as requiring emergency care compared to white children (Frontiers in Pediatrics)
– Black women are 3–4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white people in the U.S (NCBI – NIH)
A fantastic example of this: The Tuskegee Study, in which Black men were not treated for syphilis and were left to die. This was a national crisis, and years later, the 1932 experiment is still brought up in classes to demonstrate the inequalities within healthcare.
Palmer mentioned the discrepancy in care as well, saying “Unfortunately doctors are people and if you don’t ‘look the part’ they may not think that’s your problem. They may not even suggest if you ‘look healthy’ whatever that means! I came to a doctor in tears once and all they offered was a measles vaccine…No one can help us like we can help ourselves.”
As Black people continue to fight for their rights to adequate healthcare treatment, it is crucial for medical personnel to acknowledge their internalized racism and educate themselves to combat it. Unfortunately, biases still run strong. And we must do better.
Do you struggle with PCOS like Keke Palmer, or another chronic illness? What has your experience in the healthcare industry been like? Let us know below.
Looking For More Health Articles? Read These: