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How PCOS Diagnosis Is Communicated May Affect Later Well-Being

Words used by physicians to communicate diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome linked to state of well-being reported by women

TUESDAY, Aug. 30, 2022 (HealthDay News) — How a diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is communicated can impact subsequent patient well-being, according to a study published online Aug. 9 in BJGP Open.

Jane Ogden, Ph.D., and Lucy Bridge, from the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom, assessed the impact of aspects of the diagnostic consultation for PCOS on subsequent well-being. The analysis included survey results from 147 women.

The researchers found that most diagnoses took place in primary care, with the majority of participants reporting a medium degree of satisfaction with the consultation. While most diagnoses were framed using a neutral term “raised,” many diagnoses used the more judgmental term “abnormal.” Most consultations focused on taking oral contraception and weight management. Lower communication comfort during the diagnostic consultation and greater use of the word “raised” predicted poorer body esteem (body dissatisfaction and dieting behavior) and poorer quality of life (self-identity, concerns about fertility, physical health, hirsutism, and overall quality of life). Greater use of the word “irregular” predicted greater concerns about fertility; greater focus on fertility predicted greater concerns about physical health; and greater focus on appearance predicted greater concerns about hirsutism.

“Words matter, as patients often replay conversations that they have had with doctors in a bid to make sense of situations,” Ogden said in a statement. “Although words such as ‘raised’ and ‘irregular’ are simple words they are vague which can cause women to worry, as they automatically think the worst, as they have not been provided with all the facts. Such anxiety at the time of diagnosis, can negatively impact how they feel about themselves as their life progresses.”

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