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Lipstick on the Rim: It’s NOT All In Your Head – Medical Oncologist Dr. Elizabeth Comen Demystifies the Truth and Lies in Women Healthcare, How to Be Your Own Advocate, Navigating Your Instincts Versus a Trusted Medical Professional and More!


Dr. Elizabeth Comen learned at a very early age that two women can have the same diagnosis with breast cancer, but how they experience it, feel in their bodies, what they want to feel whole, and to thrive in the world, is completely different. Since then, she has dedicated her medical career to saving the lives of women. Her latest book All In Her Head uncovers the truth and lies early medicine taught us about women’s bodies and why it matters today. This episode is to empower women, of all ages, to take their health into their own hands and become their greatest advocates for themselves and one other.

[Elizabeth] On How Lifestyle Factors Can Impact Cancer Risks

“If you look at the American Cancer Society statistics, there is a significant rise in cancer among people under the age of 40, particularly with respect to breast cancer as well as colon cancer. There’s a lot of work being done right now to unpack and figure out what the inciting causes of it are and why there’s rising incidences. There are things that we can do to reduce the risk of all sorts of types of cancers. There are things that are modifiable and things that are not modifiable. You can’t change your family history, however, you can make lifestyle changes. For example, maintaining a healthy weight, decreasing the intake of processed foods, avoiding a lot of processed meat (red meat in particular), decreasing alcohol consumption, not smoking, and making sure that you go for annual screenings to catch cancer early can dramatically change and improve outcomes.”

[Elizabeth] On The Importance of Mammograms

“I do mammograms all day every day, and I’m behind on getting my own. I understand the fear, the fear is real, but that’s why we have community. Why women get together and even go to get their mammograms, or say “Look, I’m scared to schedule my mammogram. Tell me to do it. I’m going to call you back when I do it.” We need some level of accountability and caring for each other because at times, we’re caring for everybody else in the world, but who is caring for the women of society? We need to show up for each other. The reason why early screening and early detection is so important is not only because it improves your chance of surviving if you are diagnosed with breast cancer or any type of cancer, but also because it dramatically changes the type of treatment that you can get. If you catch a cancer earlier, you can do less invasive surgeries, often avoid chemotherapy, and have improved outcomes.”

[Elizabeth] On The Biggest Misconception in Women’s Healthcare

“The biggest misconception regarding women’s healthcare, including when I was in medical school, is that women’s health care is our breasts and our reproductive organs. Women’s health is head to toe different than men’s health. We are not small men. We present with diseases differently. There are female specific diseases. There are female predominant diseases that only occur in us [women]. As a medical society, we need to pay attention to those unique presentations, and unique research needs to happen so that we can have more equitable care. For example, 80% of autoimmune diseases are found in women. Wouldn’t you, by definition, consider that more women’s health focused? However that’s not the way that we perceive it as a society or in the medical world. There is a huge problem in the health of women globally. We are woefully misunderstood, often invalidated for our pain, and experience shame in our bodies. The research that goes into women is incredibly underfunded.”

[Elizabeth] On Where to Find Accurate Medical Information + Care

“You should feel and know that you’re in the hands of a trusted professional. If you don’t feel like you have that, you have to find a new doctor. You want to make sure that they’re board certified. There’s a lot of quacks out there. and there are a lot of people selling stuff online. I think the internet is a very enticing place to try to get health information however the internet should be where you are looking for questions to ask your doctor in a private space. Make sure that you’re able to have a dialogue where you feel understood and heard and validated for what you’re going through. I’m an in-person kind of person and I believe that touch and connecting with people, having those visual cues and unspoken words, are incredibly important especially in my line of work. That being said, telemedicine can be incredibly powerful, it’s helpful and unique, but it doesn’t replace those times when it really makes sense to be seen in person.”

Elizabeth’s Must-Haves:

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