Friday, May 16, 2008

ob-gyn

One thing that I wanted to share with you was my ob-gyn experiences. The first part is an excerpt from an email to my family and friends was when I went for my pap smear in 2003.

"Well, I just wanted to share the latest experience I've had in Japan...going to the ob-gyn. Bear with me guys, while I talk about this...and girls, you can feel where I'm coming from...

Every year, our city office issues out coupons for free pap smears and breast examinations...so, I had Satoshi checkout which doctor could do both exams and we went there yesterday. Let me just say that it was like no other exam I've ever had, in fact, it was kind of embarassing.

First they take you to a curtained area, where they tell you to undress from the bottom down, there is no tissue paper cover to wrap yourself in (talk about a recycling country!) then they make you sit in this chair which looks like the one at the dentist (or some carnival ride), except that there is no place to put your feet...they just dangle. There is a curtain in front of you and all you can see are feet moving about behind the curtain...the chair reclines back, while pushing your legs apart...then the doctor does the smear (that part is still the same), all the while they are telling me to relax (yeah, I'm half way upside down and you want me to relax??) at the end of the smear they fill the cavity with fluid to clean the area...

Then it was off to the breast examination...this again was embarrassing...again, no tissue paper cover to wrap yourself...just nude on the top-half, curtains wide open, people walking back and forth...first you sit facing the doctor with your hands behind your head and the doctor whacks the bottom of your breast (like when you hit a ping pong ball and bounce it on the paddle)...to see how perky they are...I thought, "is this test for real?" then he makes you lie down with your hands behind your head and the doctor checks them again, this time by pressing down on them...talk about perspiration from being totally embarrassed...(now I know why I've put off going in Japan...)"


So, on the last trip home, I finally went to my old ob-gyn for a pap smear...but with no insurance...I think it cost US$300 just for the visit and another $80 for the lab fees! (I'll have to pay back my mom for paying the bill after I left...)

Yesterday, since Satoshi had the day off, we went to another doctor in Minoo that was offering free mammograms through the city office. (The doctor we went to in 2003, is no longer on Minoo's list...hmm..)

I was dreading the test and Satoshi was dreading sitting the in the waiting room filled with ladies. Well, Satoshi got reprieved as the doctor we went to, was actually a clinic for men and women, they don't only do ob-gyn stuff.

They called me in and thank goodness...they had tissue paper vests to cover up with! The radiologist was very patient.

It was my first time getting a mammogram, but with the high cost of getting it in Hawaii without insurance, I figured I should get it done in Japan since it is paid for by the city.

The x-ray machine that they use takes x-rays of your breasts from the upright position. I am not "well endowed" as others, and let me tell you, they pull and press every inch of your breasts to a horizontal position then you have to hold your breath, while they take the x-ray...ow! (though I think I was holding my breath even before they told me to!)

Then the machine turned sideways so that it can squeeze your breasts vertically and take x-rays of the armpits as well. Though it was over within a couple seconds, it was pretty painful!

Within minutes, they called me back in to see the doctor and he showed me the x-ray images. He said that he didn't see anything wrong.

Then he told me that he wanted to do an actual breast exam, so I had to strip (top only), right then and there so that he could do a breast examination, no "I'll leave to take off your clothes, please wrap yourself in a tissue cover...", the nurse and doctor were there...just watching...sigh.

On top of that, the x-ray images will be examined by another doctor (which is what they do with all mammograms), so I need to go back in two weeks to hear the verdict. Hopefully everything will turn out okay and thank goodness these exams only need to be done once a year!

Maybe this post was TMI (too much information), but I thought for those who are thinking of living in Japan (or want to see life beyond the tours), this kind of information may be eye-opening as to the type of medical system that is available in Japan.

Hope you have a great weekend!

22 comments:

tamakikat said...

Hi K,

this is an interesting post.

Personally I avoid doctors and dentists here and did so even when in the National Health Insurance scheme which makes things pretty cheap.

The reasons are:

1) First off I was afraid of a Japanese doctor or dentist-thinking communication
problems etc.

2) I think the doctors are on the whole pretty rude showing little 'bed-side manner'. It is like they are gods and you should be grateful they allow you to see them. (The dentists I've been to were fine.)

3) It takes so much time at the hospital to see a doctor. You can't book an appointment so you have to go in early and even then it takes a long time. For the dentist it seems you have to go back repeatedly.

Now when I am sick I go my friendly pharmacist and they usually sort me out.

When I am back in NZ I visit my doctor and dentist for a check up. My dentist and GP in NZ are female. I like them. We have a rapport. It's reasonable cost-wise at under $100 for each.

If I had to stay in Japan all the time I'd probably shop around more for a better doctor at one of the smaller clinics.

I wonder what other people have experienced/think.

Barbara said...

I know it is an awful experience Kat but your descriptions had me laughing.

K & S said...

I'm glad I brought a smile or two to you, Barbara!

Yes, the doctors have no personality here, Tamakikat! I think if the price were more affordable for me in Hawaii, I would go back to my doctors there. Dentists aren't too great in Japan either. And you are right, you have to go back often!

Take care you two.
Kat

rowena said...

Doctors and dentists, yuck. The mammogram I'll get done for free when I turn 45 (bleh, that's next year!). Thanks for mentioning the co$t of a Pap back home...not that bad considering my other options!

K & S said...

Yucky stuff is right, Rowena!

Take care.
kat

Dhanggit said...

hi kat, your experience reminded me well of my personal experience with ob in japan..i remember i refused to be handled by a guy doctor and i was shocked too when they asked me to undress , without nothing at all.;the nurses even laughed at me when i covered my "____" with my hands they said.."naru hodo"..well goodluck to you..thanks for sharing this!!

K & S said...

Thanks Dhanggit, glad to hear that I was not the only one who felt humiliated.

Take care.
Kat

2kamuela47 said...

What an experience. Yeah the mammogram hurts a lot but lucky we have that I got called back to do another one mammogram because they found something. Thank God after the second test and an ultrasound they ruled it out as being serious. Just have to monitor it and hopefully things will be okay.

K & S said...

I'm glad it wasn't serious, Laura! Please take care.

Kat

Lori said...

Hi kat,
Thanks for sharing such a personal experience. It's really good to know this kind of inside information about Japan...very eye-opening!

K & S said...

Glad to have shared, Lori :)

Take care.
Kat

Paz said...

My oh, my! What an experience! Ugh! By now, I trust you got the results and all is well.

Best,
Paz

K & S said...

I still have to wait another week, Paz. Hopefully everything will be okay :)

Take care.
Kat

Paz said...

It WILL be okay. ;-)

Paz

K & S said...

Thank you Paz!

Take care.
Kat

jackpot said...

This is a nice blog. I like it!

K & S said...

thanks Jackpot.

Take care.
Kat

Darth Mama said...

I used to live in Japan, and I always hated going to the doctors. I know exactly what you were feeling. I relived it all over again. take care.

K & S said...

Sorry to make you relive bad memories, Darth Mama :(

Take care.
Kat

Donald Jenkins said...

Wow this sounds like a terrible experience. If my wife had to go through that, I think I would have a few words the the doctor and the administration of the clinic. going to an obgyn in honolulu should be handled with care and comfort. The embarrassment you had sounds completely avoidable, and it's sad that there wasn't a greater effort to maintain your dignity. Respect and integrity, I think, are the two biggest priorities when looking for an obgyn in honolulu or anywhere for that matter.

Rowena... said...

Wow, it's been over 5 years since you posted this, and the only reason why I came back is because blogger let me know that you had another comment. Anyhoo, it served to remind me to get moving on having a checkup and I can tell you that getting the pap test wasn't anywhere near the stuffs that you write about. True, I'm just told to remove my pants in the bathroom but we (the female doc and my husband) are all alone in a locked room. It went just like in the states, except that we don't get tissue cover-ups so I'm prancing around half-naked. Thank goodness I remembered to shave my legs!

K and S said...

Thanks for your comment, Donald!

hope you go soon Rowena :)

Take care you two.
Kat