For the last few years, there’s been a lot of talk about the problems of gender biases in medicine – as women are speaking up and speaking out about their experiences.
Overall, the news isn’t good. Women are far more likely to have their medical concerns dismissed than their male counterparts, and that’s leading to everything from disability to death.
What’s going on that puts women patients at a disadvantage?
Missed and mistaken diagnoses seem to be distressingly common among women patients – and studies back up the anecdotal stories that women are telling about their medical journeys.
Here are some eye-popping statistics that help illustrate the problems:
- Women are 50% more likely to have their heart attacks misdiagnosed than men. That may have a lot to do with the fact that doctors are trained to see heart disease as a “male” problem, and they’re taught to look for symptoms that don’t manifest that way in many women.
- Women are 25% more likely than men to be misdiagnosed after a stroke. That may be because doctors often jump to a “migraine” diagnosis when a woman complains of head pain – something that’s less associated with men.
- Women spend an average of 2.5 years longer than men obtaining a diagnosis of cancer (and up to four years longer for more than 700 other diseases). That may be related to the fact that many medical providers are too quick to dismiss a woman’s health concerns as either anxiety, imagination or somehow related to her weight.
If you’re a woman who is concerned about a missed or mistaken diagnosis, what can you do to protect yourself? You have to advocate for yourself – fiercely, if necessary. That means pushing aside any tendency you may have to assume that the doctor knows best and asking questions, demanding tests and insisting on referrals to specialists. Even if it makes you uncomfortable, it’s the only way to protect yourself.
If you or your loved one falls victim to a medical mistake, you may want to consider seeking legal guidance that’s specific to your situation. Doing so can help you to make more informed decisions about your rights and options under the law.