An Interview with Dr. Tamer Seckin, Endo Expert

An Interview with Dr. Tamer Seckin, Endo Expert

​Dr. Tamer Seckin is a New York–based gynecologist and laparoscopic surgeon who specializes in treating endometriosis. He co-founded the Endometriosis Foundation of America with Padma Lakshmi, and he's the kind of cool doctor who isn't interested in just the science behind the disease, but also in talking about the systemic issues surrounding treatment. He'll throw out phrases like "cultural misogyny" and discuss shame around menstruation when describing what makes endometriosis so hard to properly diagnose.

Dr. Seckin grew up in Turkey idolizing the doctor, musician, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer for "his commitment to healing patients." In his spare time, Seckin, who lives in Brooklyn, plays the guitar, violin, and mandolin. Sometimes his kids - who went to the same high school as Lena! - will sing a song with him, but he really wants them to start a family band. Lenny spoke with Dr. Seckin about how he ended up specializing in endometriosis, why it takes so many years for women to get diagnosed with the disease, and what to look for in a doctor if you suffer from endo.

Marisa Meltzer: What made you so interested in endometriosis?

Tamer Seckin: I grew up in Turkey. To be honest, I was raised in an environment where I saw a lot of injustice to women. In medical school, I saw girls from the village come to the referral center who had been raped or had attempted abortions. That was all deeply implanted when I came to the U.S. And then with endometriosis patients, I saw that other doctors were missing the true cause of their pain and there was a lot of misdiagnosis that was being practiced. I was sucked in - I cared, and I felt their pain. It was a calling, and today I only see endometriosis patients.

 

MM: What is endometriosis, exactly, and what causes it?

TS: Endometriosis is the menstrual blood that goes backward - we say reflux - usually into the main abdominal cavity, so our bladder, bowel, and pelvic nerves are all affected. It's evasive and enigmatic and difficult to diagnose.

 

MM: Why is it so difficult to diagnose?

TS: It's a disease of periods, really, and in general there is a lot of societal misconception about periods and menstruation. People still don't talk about their periods openly. The first symptoms usually start around the first period. There's often some degree of downplaying or assuring from the family. Let's say a girl goes to her mom and tells her she's in pain. Her mom might say, "I had painful periods, it's just normal." I had a patient today who said, "My pain started early, and I was told by my mother it was normal, and finally I convinced myself it was normal because I didn't have a frame of reference."

 

MM: And girls are so often taught to second-guess themselves.

TS: It's cultural misogyny. These women think that having pain of all degrees - to the extent of tortuous pain - is part of being a woman. That suffering and pain is part of their sexuality. But this pain is not normal, and the taboo that surrounds it must not be either. Girls are accused of exaggerating or performing, like it's some kind of excuse. They're told it's all in their head. As a result, they can lose confidence and turn inward and get withdrawn and depressed. Am I convincing you this is serious?

 

MM: Yes! What is the pain like?

TS: Debilitating, excruciating, killer cramps.

 

MM: How do you know if it's just a particularly bad period or endometriosis?

TS: We notice severe increased bleeding, heavy and long with clots. When the pain lasts more than one or two days. Look for pain in sex, bloating, gassiness, diarrhea, constipation, all around the period. Severe back pain and leg pain. Or if there's vomiting, nausea - a doubled-over situation. Eighty percent of the time, there are severe gastrointestinal symptoms that overlap, which tells us the cramps aren't just of uterine origin, that something else is happening and the body is fighting it. The patient's symptoms usually point to where the disease is, whether it is in the bowels, it occurs during periods, or there's pain with intercourse. However, in early stages of the disease, the correlation isn't as recognizable by the majority of gynecologists.

 

MM: Why is that?

TS: These gynecologists are generalists, not trained to recognize early endometriosis, which is one of the root causes for why most women are not diagnosed until much later in their lives, when the endometriosis has spread considerably.

 

MM: How many women have it?

TS: We don't know how many women and girls are affected by this disease, we can only guess, but we think one out of ten have this disease. It could be much more. Some women aren't as symptomatic or are misdiagnosed as having IBS, and they never know they have endometriosis.

 

MM: How do doctors usually treat endometriosis?

TS: Patients are basically given pain medicine and birth-control pills and sometimes antidepressants. Drug therapies and pain medication are over-practiced. We have a serious, national problem with prescription-drug addiction. Birth-control pills are good to diminish the flow so the period doesn't reflux as much, but it's important to have the right ones and the right timing. I want the lesions excised, so I treat this disease microsurgically and remove the inflamed tissue.

 

MM: What happens if you don't get diagnosed early?

TS: The first thing is the quality of life over time decreases. Being in pain eight, ten, 16 days a month is not easy. And then there's the fertility issue. Many endometriosis patients fail to have more than one kid. If the disease is not treated, eventually it settles on to side organs, and the patient ends up having to have radical surgery, or have her bowel taken out, or she loses her uterus, or some lose ovaries.

 

MM: What should an endometriosis patient look for in a doctor?

TS: Educate yourself. If a patient brings their knowledge to the table, that can help. I changed because my patients changed me.



Source: //www.lennyletter.com/health/news/a163/an-interview-with-dr-tamer-seckin-endo-expert/

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  • Angela Aro

    I have struggled with endometriosis and adenomyosis since first starting my period at 13. I was diagnosed at 21 and what followed was a series of unsuccessful surgeries and treatments. My case was very aggressive and involved my urinary tract system and my intestines. After exhausting all of my local doctors I was lucky enough to find Dr. Seckin. We…

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    Like so many women who have tirelessly sought a correct diagnosis and proper, thorough medical treatment for endometriosis, I found myself 26 years into this unwanted journey without clear answers or help from four previous gynecological doctors and two emergency laparoscopic surgeries. I desperately wanted to avoid the ER again; a CT scan for appendicitis also revealed a likely endometrioma…

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    Dr. Seckin literally gave my wife her life back. I am eternally grateful to him for his generous, determined spirit to see that Melanie finally live free from the prison bonds of Endometriosis.

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    I am so grateful to Dr Seckin and Dr. Goldstein. My experience was nothing short of amazing. I was misdiagnosed with the location of my fibroids and have had a history of endometriosis. Dr. Seckin was the one who accurately diagnosed me. Dr Seckin and Dr. Goldstein really care about their patients and it shows. They listened to my concerns,…

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    When I think of Dr. Seckin these are the words that come to mind. Gratitude, grateful, life-changing, a heart of gold. I feel compelled to give you a bit of background so you can understand the significance of this surgery for me. I am passionate about Endometriosis because it has affected me most of my life and I have a…

  • Jaclyn Harte

    Dr. Seckin and Dr. Goldstein radically changed my quality of life. They treat their patients with dignity & respect that I've personally never seen in the literally 25+ doctors I've seen for endometriosis. This summer, I had a surgery with Dr. Seckin & Goldstein. It was my first with them, but my 5th endo surgery. I couldn't believe the difference,…

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    I was in pain for 2 years. I was getting no answers, and because dr Goldstein and dr seckins were willing to see and treat me I'm finally feeling almost back to normal. They were very down to earth and helpful in my time of need. Dr Goldstein was easy to talk to and caring, she took care of me…

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    Dr. Seckin is one of the best endometriosis surgeon. Every time I go to the office, he really listens to me and is always concerned about my issues. Dr Seckin's office staff are a delight and they always work with me. I feel I can leave everything to them and they will take care of it. Thank you to the…

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    Fast forward 5 years to find out incidentally I had a failing kidney. My left kidney was only functioning at 18%. During this time, I was preparing all my documents to send to Dr. Seckin to review. However, with this new information I put everything on hold and went to a urologist. After a few months, no one could figure…

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    I'll never stop praising Dr. Seckin and his team. He literally gave me back my life.

  • Erin Brehm

    I had a wonderful experience working with Dr. Seckin and his team before, during and after my surgery. I came to Dr. Seckin having already had laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis 5 years prior, with a different surgeon. My symptoms and pain had returned, making my life truly challenging and my menstrual cycle unbearable. Dr. Seckin was quick to validate my…

  • Anita Schillhorn

    I came to Dr. Seckin after years of dealing with endometriosis and doctors who didn't fully understand the disease. He quickly ascertained what needed to be done, laid out the options along with his recommendation and gave me the time to make the right decision for me. My surgery went without a hitch and I'm healing very well. He and…

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    Dr. Seckin brought me back to life! I am now 3 weeks into my recovery after my laparoscopy surgery, and I feel like a new and improved woman! Being diagnosed with Endometriosis, then 25yrs old in 2015, and discovering the severity of my case being stage 4, made me devastated. Dr. Seckin's vast knowledge of the disease, sincere empathy, and…