by drseckin.com | Posted on November 17, 2015
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.
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.
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.
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."
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?
TS: Debilitating, excruciating, killer cramps.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
TS: Educate yourself. If a patient brings their knowledge to the table, that can help. I changed because my patients changed me.
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There aren’t enough stars for Seckin Endometriosis. They deserve 100/ 5. I want to make sure every woman right now who is looking for help, who is looking for a doctor and is scared and confused knows this is where you need to be. It doesn’t matter if you have to come from the other side of the United States or from the other side of the world, I can guarantee it will be worth it. Every member of their…
I’ve seen many obgyns over the years explaining my monthly symptoms during my period...but eventually it became a daily struggle with these pain. It feels like a poke here and there near my right pelvic region. I was given birth control pills for the past ten years but honestly, it didn’t help at all. I was in bed whenever I had my period. I was previously sent to GI doctors for possible appendicitis but it was ruled out from imagings…
Dr.Seckin is so much more than a surgeon. His passion for helping endometriosis sufferers and determination to improve the quality of life in all of his patients is undeniable. I remember when my gynecologist first told me I needed a laparoscopy. Her exact words were "I can do the surgery, but if you were MY daughter- I'd send you to him." From the first day I met him he took the time to explain endometriosis to me since I knew…
I was there for hysterectomy but then I found out that I also had endometriosis.My both surgeries went excellent and I feel great!.I am so thankful to Dr.Seckin and all his team for making my journey smooth!
I am a physician who suffered from deep infiltrative endometriosis. I needed laparoscopic surgery, so I went to see my former gynaecologist and he performed the procedure (a surgery which he supposedly does hundreds of times a year) last November. I had severe pain again when I had my period in January and was advised to go on taking a low hormone dose anticoncipient pill. My symptoms came back quickly and got worse in a few months’ time. I went…
After years of excessively painful periods, a serious loss of quality of life, and a series of uninformed and uninterested doctors, Dr. Seckin and Dr. Goldstein turned my life around. I was told I woke up from my surgery almost a year ago with a smile on my face, and I haven't stopped since. Before I heard of Dr. Seckin, I was experiencing almost daily terrible pain to the point where I had difficulty walking, inability to eat, inexplicable weight…
Dr Seckin and his team gave me back my life! Tomorrow will be 1 month since my surgery and I feel great. Dr. Seckin, Dr Liu, and Dr Goldstein are not only beyond words talented and amazing Doctors, but they are also genuinely wonderful and caring people. I cannot say enough great things about Holly, Asiye and Kim as well. They were all caring, kind, patient, and took the time to listen to me and explain anything I needed to…