Fat-phobia in the medical community is often a subject of controversy. Although research has shown that some doctors discriminate against people considered overweight or obese, there's still a prevailing belief that the insistence to lose weight is in the interest of the patient's health. But the recent story of this woman who had a 50-pound cyst removed highlights why fat-shaming in health care needs to stop — now.
Kayla Rahn, a 30-year-old woman from Montgomery, Alabama, had been dealing with months of unexplained pain, stomach problems, and weight gain, according to local ABC affiliate WCVB. When she went to doctors to figure out what's wrong, she was told to lose weight. Despite her efforts to do so, she continued to gain weight, and her health problems kept getting worse, WCVB reported.
Yet, Rahn's doctors did nothing beyond telling her to drop the pounds. So, last month, when the pain became too unbearable, Rahn went to the emergency room at Jackson Hospital in Montgomery, according to local NBC affiliate WSFA. She underwent a series of tests to determine the underlying condition. And it turned out she had a 50-pound cyst growing in her ovary that was "taking over her body," WSFA reported.
Rahn told WSFA, "I couldn't even walk to my car without losing my breath." She added, according to WSFA:
I legit looked like I was a solid 9 months pregnant. We went to dinner and someone asked me if I was having twins. It was frustrating and rough.
She underwent emergency surgery to remove the cyst, which doctors diagnosed as mucinous cystadenoma, WSFA reported. Mucinous cystadenoma is a benign condition in which a tumor grows from the ovary's epithelium — the thin tissue forming its outer layer, according to a 2010 study in the journal, Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology.
Symptoms of mucinous cystadenoma include abdominal or pelvic pain, fatigue, indigestion, constipation, urine leakage, and weight gain caused by tumor growth, according to Patient Care. Often, because of its growth, the benign cystic tumor can restrict a person's diaphragm, causing breathing problems, which is what happened in Rahn's case.
Despite all of these symptoms that she reported — symptoms that aren't inherently associated with excess weight, like urine leakage — Rahn's concerns were largely ignored. Her physicians were reportedly so focused on the number on the scale and not the actual issues Rahn experienced.
In other words: a classic case of weight bias in the doctor's office.
A 2017 study from the American Psychological Association found that weight bias among doctors can negatively impact a person's health and well-being. In addition to destroying a person's self-esteem, fat-shaming by a medical professional can lead to misdiagnoses and delayed treatment, which can have long-term health implications, according to Health.
But fat phobia among health care professionals continues to be denied not only by the medical community, but the public at large. Scour Twitter, and you'll find post after post of users suggesting that doctors aren't "fat-shaming" their patients; rather, they're doing their jobs by trying to get you to lose weight and be healthy.
If that were the case, then Rahn wouldn't have had to go to the emergency room in order to get proper care.
No person, no matter their size, should have to go to urgent care in order to get the adequate medical attention they should have received by their regular doctor. No person, no matter their size, should have to suffer health problems because their physician can't see past their size.
Telling a patient to lose weight is not showing concern for their health. It's lazy medical care — and it's hurting people.