Even though it’s easier for women to find female doctors than ever before, they still are more likely to be misdiagnosed than male patients. Some cases of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis are merely frustrating. Some cause women to suffer pain or discomfort for longer than they should. Unfortunately, sometimes the lack of an accurate, timely diagnosis can be fatal.
Heart disease and heart attacks are among the most dangerous conditions that are too often misdiagnosed in female patients. In fact, women are 50% more likely than men to be diagnosed incorrectly by a doctor when they’re suffering from a heart condition.
Sometimes, even a heart attack isn’t recognized for what it is. Women often display different symptoms than men do when they suffer a heart attack. Women who are having or have had a heart attack often don’t have chest pain, which has long been the “traditional” symptom. Their symptoms can include neck and jaw pain, indigestion and fatigue. Doctors are often quick to attribute these to a host of less serious ailments.
Another dangerous medical event that’s too often missed in women is a stroke. Women have approximately a 30% greater chance of having a stroke misdiagnosed than men. Time is of the essence in recognizing and treating a stroke, so these misdiagnoses can have catastrophic results. Unfortunately, even when women are accurately diagnosed with a stroke, they’re less likely to be given medication to dissolve clots.
One doctor says a key reason for these continued issues with inaccurate and missed diagnoses is the way physicians are trained. She says, “To this day, we are still teaching the next generation of providers unisex medicine.” She also notes that “when you look at research, beginning with animal studies, three-quarters of the studies are done in male animals, even in diseases that predominantly affect women. So it shouldn’t be surprising that…there might be some inherent, implicit bias that providers aren’t aware of, because it’s been taught to them since they were starting out.”
Women need to be strong advocates for themselves when it comes to medical care. It’s essential to speak up if you believe your doctor hasn’t adequately explored the reasons for your symptoms — whatever they might be. Misdiagnosis can be grounds for a medical malpractice suit in some circumstances. If you believe that you suffered harm due to a preventable misdiagnosis, it’s wise to consult an attorney.