The first time Ediana Quijada found a lump in her breast, she was laughed off and told “it was happening because of her period and nothing to worry about.”
It was far from nothing. After a six-year battle with metastatic breast cancer, the cheerful Houston native is happy to share her story with other young women, advising regular breast exams, early detection having made a key difference in many cases.
The finding is part of a larger Mexican investigation into allegations of improper medical care for detained migrant women at ICE’s privately-run Irwin Country Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia.
In a statement released during the weekend, Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said one Mexican national received “a surgical intervention” that she did not authorize. The ministry specified that the operation was not a hysterectomy, and said she did not receive post-operative care. The woman also did not receive treatment for a hernia, the statement adds.
A second woman in Mexico allegedly underwent a gynecological surgery “without her full consent,” according to the Ministry, which did not specify the type of surgery. The statement says she did not “receive an explanation in Spanish of the medical diagnosis or the nature of the medical procedures that would be performed.” The government says it is “verifying” this case.
Reached for comment on Tuesday, ICE released a statement attributed to Acting Director Tony Pham that the allegations “raise very serious concerns that deserve to be investigated,” and are being reviewed by both the Office of Inspector General where the original whistleblower complaint was filed, and the Department of Homeland Security.
“If there is any truth to these allegations, it is my commitment to make the corrections necessary to ensure we continue to prioritize the health, welfare and safety of ICE detainees,” Pham said in the statement.
In September, Dawn Wooten, a licensed practical nurse formerly employed at Georgia’s Irwin County Detention Center filed a complaint raising concerns about an undetermined number of hysterectomies supposedly performed there, as well as alleged medical neglect.
At least 20 women have since been interviewed by Mexican officials as part of the ongoing investigation. According to an earlier statement by the Foreign Ministry, five women said they had “interactions” with a doctor who has been linked to allegedly improper surgeries.
Dr. Ada Rivera, medical director of the ICE Health Service Corps, has said in a statement that since 2018, only two individuals at the Irwin County Detention Center have been referred to certified, credentialed medical professionals at gynecological and obstetrical health care facilities for hysterectomies.
“Based on their evaluations, these specialists recommended hysterectomies. These recommendations were reviewed by the facility clinical authority and approved,” Rivera said, citing agency data.
Through a spokesperson, LaSalle Corrections, the company that operates Irwin facility, said in a statement that “all females in our care receive routine, age-appropriate gynecological and obstetrical health care, consistent with recognized community guidelines for women’s health services.”
LaSalle also mentioned the two cases cited by ICE’s Rivera as the only two referred to certified, credentialed medical professionals at gynecological and obstetrical health care facilities for hysterectomies in compliance with National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) standards.
According to the Ministry, Mexico’s consulate in Atlanta, Georgia is in contact with a lawyer for a possible class action lawsuit and “with the women who could be included in it, in order to explore legal channels that address the violation of their rights.”
CHESAPEAKE, Va. — The last time Brittni DuPuy-German saw her trusted gynecologist, she once again explained that the stabbing, mystery pain in her abdomen had not gone away.
It first appeared two years earlier, after she said her doctor, Javaid Perwaiz, surgically tied her tubes. To fix it, he had proposed more surgery — three additional procedures in nine months that she said included a hysterectomy when she was 29. But the pain persisted.
So on Nov. 8, 2019, at his private-practice office, Perwaiz and DuPuy-German discussed the possibility of yet another surgery, she said. He scheduled an ultrasound for just days later, a sign of the efficiency that DuPuy-German had come to expect from her family’s longtime gynecologist. He was her mother’s doctor, her sister-in-law’s doctor, her best friend’s doctor. Perwaiz had delivered DuPuy-German and delivered her children.
Which is why, when her phone buzzed the day after her appointment, she was shocked by the headline she was reading: “Chesapeake doctor tied women’s tubes, performed hysterectomies without their consent, feds say.”
She absorbed the details of the FBI investigation. Her doctor, the news report said, was accused of lying to patients and persuading them to have life-altering surgeries they didn’t need. DuPuy-German began doubting everything Perwaiz had told her about her own body.
“That’s when all of the things that I didn’t question before started popping up,” she said.
As Perwaiz faces trial this week, a year after his arrest, DuPuy-German has received few answers to those questions — even as the FBI’s investigation expanded and the list of alleged victims grew. There are 29 patients specified in court documents and hundreds of others who contacted authorities after the doctor’s arrest.
DuPuy-German, now 32, is not cited in the criminal case but has filed a lawsuit against Perwaiz.
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia would not say how many women in total were allegedly mistreated by Perwaiz, but in a recent trial memorandum prosecutors wrote that “the identified patients are only ‘examples’ of the scheme to defraud.”
The case, which authorities said was launched in 2018 after a hospital employee’s tip, first hinged on one charge each of health-care fraud and false statements. Federal prosecutors now allege that Perwaiz executed an “extensive scheme” spanning nearly a decade that endangered women’s pregnancies, robbed their ability to conceive and pressured them into unnecessary procedures based on unfounded cancer diagnoses and exams using broken equipment.
The more procedures Perwaiz performed, authorities said, the more money he made off insurance companies. He used the profits, according to prosecutors’ trial memorandum, “to support his lavish lifestyle.”
Perwaiz, who is jailed without bond, pleaded not guilty. He has not spoken publicly about the allegations but defense attorneys said in a court document he is “prepared to defend himself at trial.” His lawyers in the criminal case have not responded to multiple requests for comment, but have argued unsuccessfully in numerous motions to dismiss that, among other things, some charges were duplicative.
While Parkinson’s disease affects men twice more often than women—Michael J. Foxx has been one of the most famous to be afflicted by it—data shows that women experience a faster progression of the disease and a higher mortality rate.
With symptoms like tremors, rigid muscles, slowed movements, and speech changes, a Parkinson’s diagnosis can wreak havoc on the body. These four women, who have been living with Parkinson’s for up to two decades, open up about what they wish they knew when they were first diagnosed, including how important it is to have a rock solid support network.
“You can live a great life with Parkinson’s, but you have to accept help along the way.”
After Kelly Weinschreider, 47, of Chicago, Illinois, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at just 29 years old, she was prescribed several medications that lessened her symptoms. Since she felt fine, it made it easier for her to ignore what was going on, especially since she didn’t tell many people about it. “I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me, or for my diagnosis to change my relationships, personally or professionally, ” she said.
That denial—plus side effects from the medicine and the disease’s progression—forced her to leave her job as a quality manager 10 years later. “I should have been seeing a behavioral health specialist to understand how Parkinson’s affected me and how to accept it,” she says. “Instead, I took my medications sporadically. I mismanaged time and commitments, and I had trouble performing my job and, ultimately, spun out. I wish I would have been more forthcoming with family and friends as to how the disease was affecting me.”
After living with the condition for 18 years, Weinschreider came to terms with her diagnosis. She also realized it truly takes a village to live life with Parkinson’s to its fullest and started to communicate with friends and family when she needed help. “You need the support of family and friends, the care of multiple specialists, and the foresight to plan for the future. You can live a great life with Parkinson’s, but you have to accept help along the way,” Weinschreider says.
“I wish I hadn’t dismissed early symptoms.”
Denise Coley, 68, of Morgan Hill, California was diagnosed with Parkinson’s two years ago, after months of having trouble balancing and experiencing insomnia and mood changes—all things she thought were unrelated to each other, not signs of a slow degenerative disease. “It wasn’t until the motor symptoms appeared, like the tremors, that I realized what was going on was a bigger issue than I originally thought,” Coley says.
In hindsight, Coley wishes she had responded differently, and run to the doctor first thing. “If I had realized sooner,” she says, “I would have spent more quality time with family. I would have looked into what changes in my life and home were needed earlier in order
COVID-19 symptoms can last a long time in pregnant women, researchers say.
The new study included 594 pregnant women, with average age 31, across the United States who tested positive for the new coronavirus but were not hospitalized. Nearly one-third were health care workers.
On average, the women were about 24 weeks’ pregnant when they joined the study.
The most common early symptoms were cough, at 20%, sore throat, at 16%, body aches, at 12%, and fever, at 12%. By comparison, fever occurs in 43% of hospital patients who are not pregnant.
For 6%, loss of taste or smell was the first symptom. Other symptoms included shortness of breath, runny nose, sneezing, nausea, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea or dizziness.
While six out of 10 women had no symptoms after four weeks, symptoms lasted eight or more weeks for 25%, the study found.
Thirty-seven days was the median time for symptoms to resolve, meaning half took longer, half took less time. The findings were published this month in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.
“COVID-19 symptoms during pregnancy can last a long time, and have a significant impact on health and well-being,” said senior author Dr. Vanessa Jacoby. She is vice chairwoman of research in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.
Jacoby’s team also found that COVID-related symptoms were complicated by overlapping signs of normal pregnancy, including nausea, fatigue and congestion.
The majority of participants had mild disease and were not hospitalized, said first author Dr. Yalda Afshar, assistant professor in the division of maternal fetal medicine, department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Despite the potential risks of COVID-19 for pregnant women and their newborns, large gaps in knowledge about the disease’s course and prognosis remain, Afshar noted in a UCSF news release.
“Our results can help pregnant people and their clinicians better understand what to expect with COVID-19 infection,” Afshar said.
There’s more on COVID-19 and pregnancy at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Homa Yusafzai felt terrible. Her weight was up, she had diabetes and high blood pressure, and at just 27 she felt lethargic and depressed.
Then she heard that Kandahar’s first health club for women had just opened — the miracle she had been waiting for, she thought. Her husband at first refused to let her join. Kandahar is a deeply conservative city, a former headquarters of the Taliban where men still dictate the most prosaic details of women’s lives.
But ultimately, he relented, and Ms. Yusafzai now works out six days a week, straining through hand-weight repetitions and pounding a treadmill. In six months, she said, she had shed almost 50 pounds, lowered her blood pressure and brought her diabetes under control.
“I feel so healthy and I have more energy — I’m so happy,” she said as she rested between workouts.
The health club was opened late last year by Maryam Durani, 36, an indomitable women’s rights advocate who has survived two suicide bombings, an assassination attempt and countless death threats — not to mention harsh public condemnation for opening the club.
“Kandahar is a very difficult environment for women,” Ms. Durani said. “We have to be careful and discreet.”
She added: “The club is as much for women’s mental health as their physical health. Almost every woman who comes here is depressed.”
Roughly 40 percent of club members exercise secretly, hiding workouts from their families, Ms. Durani said. Membership had dropped from 60 in the spring to 30 now, because of a three-month coronavirus closure and because some women feared their families would discover their secret workouts.
“My father and brothers said they would kill me if I went to a health club,” said one gym member, who asked to be identified only by her nickname, Tamana.
Tamana, 33, was dressed in white robes traditionally worn for studying the Quran at a madrasa — the excuse she gives her family for leaving home to exercise at the club two hours a day, six days a week. She changes into workout clothes at the gym, hitting the treadmill, stationary bike and hand weights.
“I’m not doing anything wrong or shameful,” Tamana said. “In fact, it’s something that’s made me a happier and healthier person.”
But the gym is constantly in jeopardy. Soon after it opened, it was deluged with
On her last day of consciousness, Misty Luminais Babin held onto hope. “I choose life,” the 38-year-old told her sister, husband and doctor from inside the Ochsner Medical Center ICU.
But her sister, Aimee Luminais Calamusa, knew it was a choice made too late. A former ICU nurse herself, she was trained to recognize signs of the end. Even after draining 3 liters of fluid from Babin’s abdomen, her liver — mottled and scarred by years of heavy drinking — couldn’t keep up. The fluid had started building up in her lungs and she gasped for air. Without oxygen, her other organs began to fail.
“When I left that day, I knew that would be the last time I talked to her, ever,” said Calamusa. “It was really hard to walk out that door.”
Babin died two days later, on June 14 of this year, after a long struggle with alcohol use disorder. Her family said the fight intensified in the last four or five years after a rough breakup, but may have been more stealthy and prevalent than they ever realized.
“None of us knew,” said Calamusa, who wrote a moving and honest obituary in The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate about her sister’s struggles. “She hid it very well. I think she probably has been an addict for a long time. She lost control very quickly.”
With an average of 1,591 alcohol-related deaths from 2011 to 2015, Louisiana is tied for 10th among U.S. states on a per-capita basis when it comes to people succumbing to the disease, according to a recent analysis of death certificates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Across the country, alcohol-related deaths have risen by 51% over a period covering most of the past two decades, according to a study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism published earlier this year.
The most alarming increase was among women. Deaths increased by 85% from 1999 to 2017.
And amid all-time high levels of anxiety and economic uncertainty, public-health experts fear that deaths like Babin’s will spike in the coming years. New data examining how drinking habits have changed during the pandemic showed drinking overall has increased by 14% compared with a year ago. In women, the increase was 17%, according to the peer-reviewed study published Sept. 29 in JAMA Network Open by researchers from the RAND Corporation.
Binge drinking in women, defined as four drinks over two hours, increased by 41% from 2019 to 2020.
“Drinking by women is sort of overlooked,” said Michael Pollard, author of the JAMA study. “And this points out that it is a real concern. We don’t really have
The day before she turned 30 and had planned to leave for a celebratory vacation, Sharonda Vincent felt a lump on her left breast while in the shower. She scheduled a last-minute appointment with a doctor at Planned Parenthood, who told her to enjoy her trip because she doubted it was cancerous.
After Vincent returned home to Philadelphia, the mother of one decided to see her primary care provider, just in case. This led to a series of tests, including a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. In the summer of 2005, she was diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer.
“I was numb, hurt, confused, upset, questioning God,” she told TODAY. “It was a complete shock.”
Vincent, now 45, has been cancer-free for 15 years, thanks to the surgery, chemo and radiation she underwent that summer. She’s among the millions of Black women who’ve survived breast cancer, even though the odds are unjustly stacked against them.
Black women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. Black women are also more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage or at a younger age. Death rates for white women with breast cancer are improving more rapidly than for Black women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Research into the reason for these disparities is ongoing, but it’s likely “multifactorial,” Dr. Vivian Bea, chief of breast surgical oncology at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, told TODAY.
What’s more, Bea expects breast cancer outcomes for Black women to only get worse due to COVID-19. A recent survey, conducted by the cancer information platform SurvivorNet, found that 1 in 3 women has delayed getting a mammogram because of the coronavirus.
A doctor who looks like you
As a physician and Black woman, Bea believes that a main inhibitor for the Black community to seeking health care is the absence of doctors who can relate to their life experiences. Only 5 percent of U.S. doctors are Black, and even fewer are Black women, per 2018 data.
“When I take care of my Black patients … I can’t tell you how often I hear, ‘I trust you because you look like me,” she said. “I hear stories of, ‘I talked to this doctor, and I told them I had a mass, and they told me it was nothing,’ or ‘I had a pain, and they said it was in my head.’ Unfortunately (Black) women are sometimes not taken seriously.”
While Vincent doesn’t feel her care team approached her differently because of her race, she said she leaned heavily on the only Black medical professional she encountered during her treatment.
In Vincent’s initial appointments, she recalled, staff struggled to draw her blood, and she had to be pricked by multiple techs each time, especially uncomfortable given her fear of needles. So the Black medical assistant planned her future visits so the one tech who could draw Vincent’s blood on the first try
In most states, people are required to wear a mask in public places to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. But women do a far better job of wearing masks than men, a new study found.
Women are also more likely than men to follow all COVID-19 precautions, like washing hands, staying home and social distancing. Plus, they’re more likely to follow news about the virus from medical experts, their governor, social media and by reading about how other countries have handled the pandemic — and in turn, experience anxiety and alarm.
For the study, published in the journal Behavioral Science & Policy, researchers at New York University and Yale University surveyed 800 people about their COVID-19 habits, counted mask-wearers on the street over two days and analyzed Americans’ movements with smartphone data.
RELATED: COVID-19 Cases Dropped 15 Percent in South Carolina Areas with Mask Mandates, Increased Without Them
From the survey, they found that women were better at following guidelines in four ways — they were more likely to say they were social distancing, staying home, washing their hands frequently and avoiding meetups with different friends and family. There was no significant difference, though, between men and women in how often they reported having contact with people who are not friends or family.
For the second part of the study, the researchers watched men and women on the street for two days in New York City as well as New Haven, Connecticut, and New Brunswick, New Jersey, to count how many people were wearing masks. Out of 127 women and 173 men spotted, 55 percent of women were correctly wearing their masks, while just 38 percent of men wore them properly.
RELATED VIDEO: 11-Year-Old Making Masks for Healthcare Workers Surprised With Money for New Sewing Machine
11-Year-Old Making Masks for Healthcare Workers Surprised With Money for New Sewing Machine
Holli Morgan was presented with a $1,200 check for a new sewing machine and YouTube channel
The last measurement for the study was an analysis of GPS data from 14 million cell phones across the U.S., to see Americans’ movements and any trips to non-essential locations, such as spas, gyms and florists. The researchers found that counties with a higher percentage of men had lower rates of social distancing.
Even when the researchers accounted for areas where people were unable to work from home or did not have stay-at-home orders, men were still more likely to violate social distancing.
RELATED: If All Americans Wore Masks ‘We Could Drive This Epidemic to the Ground,’ Says CDC Director
The researchers said their findings are in line with past research on the difference in health habits between genders.
“Previous research before the pandemic shows that women had been visiting doctors more frequently in their daily lives and following their recommendations more so than men,” Irmak Olcaysoy Okten, a postdoctoral researcher in New York University’s Department of Psychology and lead author of the study, said in a press release.
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted millions of lives in many ways, one of which is the severe cut back in the number people keeping up with their routine checkups. Houston-based nonprofit group The Rose, which has been helping women receive breast cancer diagnoses and treatments for over 35 years regardless of their ability to pay, is determined not to give up on its mission.
Dorothy Gibbons, CEO and co-founder of The Rose, said the marked increase in the number of people putting off their mammograms was disastrous since early detection was the key to stopping cancer in most cases.