"It's All in Your Head": Disparities in Colposcopy Description Between Patients and Medical Professionals, Miriam Stern, UG '22 (3965441)
Historically, women have been more likely than men to have their pain dismissed by physicians as being “all in their head.” The minimization of pain experiences by the medical community has harmful consequences for patients, including generally worse health outcomes. The aim of this research is to highlight disparities between the ways in which women describe a gynecological procedure called a “colposcopy” versus how it is described in the medical literature. For this research, I first construct two corpora: one of posts from colposcopy patients on Reddit, and one of texts authored by medical professionals. I then utilize natural language processing (NLP) techniques, including word frequency analysis, sentiment analysis, and topic analysis, to compare the two corpora. Specifically, this research considered the tendency of the medical community to describe the emotional aspects of the colposcopy experience, in comparison to women’s focus on the negative physical symptoms. Among the three types of analysis performed, there is consensus that the medical literature does not address the phenomenon of colposcopy pain to the same degree as patients do. Two of the methods point to a disproportionate focus on women’s anxiety within the medical literature. The results show that medical professionals continue to attribute women’s physical pain to emotional causes and encourage the medical community to reevaluate the ways in which they acknowledge and respond to women’s complaints of pain.