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Comedian’s cancer almost went undiagnosed because of a doctor’s weight bias

'A doctor told me to 'lose weight' & it would go away.'


Siobhan Ball

Internet Culture

Posted on Aug 13, 2019   Updated on May 20, 2021, 6:32 am CDT

Comedian Jen Curran’s bone marrow cancer almost went undiagnosed thanks to a doctor’s weight stigma–an all too common stigma held among those in the medical field.

Curran explained on Twitter that she is a new mom who had high levels of protein in her urine during and after her pregnancy, so she went to see a kidney doctor at the behest of her obstetrician.

The kidney doctor told Curran that she needed to diet and exercise to try and lose weight.

Curran wrote that she was familiar with “the old ‘lose weight’ diagnosis” by medical professionals and that something didn’t quite “feel right,” so she smartly sought out a second opinion.

“The NEW kidney doctor took one look at my lab tests and said, ‘This is not good. And there’s nothing diet or exercise can do to touch it,” Curran wrote. “I was surprised BUT ALSO NOT.”

Curran went through both a kidney and bone marrow biopsy to find out that she actually had bone marrow cancer.

“And if I hadn’t gotten a second opinion?” she wrote. “Duh. I‘ll already be weeks into chemo by the time the followup with that first kidney doctor rolls around. And who knows how much longer it would have taken her to diagnose me?”

Curran isn’t the first person to have an illness, disability, or disease dismissed due to weight. And, according to a study, more than 50% of physicians “viewed obese patients as awkward, unattractive, ugly, and noncompliant.”

Many others began sharing their own stories in response to Curran’s–some with more tragic outcomes.

“So glad you got a 2nd opinion. A woman I knew went to her doctor for shortness of breath. Dr took one look at her and told her to lose weight. “Of course you can’t breath! Look at you! Lose weight and you’ll be fine”. Next day, she was dead from a blood clot in her lungs,” one wrote.

Many want Curran to attend her follow-up appointment with the doctor who left her undiagnosed. “PLEASE go to that follow-up appointment, even just to calmly inform her you have cancer that her negligence would have allowed to kill you,” one wrote.

Some even want Curran to report the doctor to the state licensing medical board.

People are also sharing advice on how to navigate what is sometimes a misogynistic and fatphobic healthcare system.

Curran ended her thread with some of her own advice.

“Lose weight if you want to. But if you think something is seriously wrong with your body, and a doctor tells you weight loss is the key to fixing it, get a goddamn second opinion,” Curran wrote.


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*First Published: Aug 13, 2019, 8:48 pm CDT