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An accurate diagnosis can be elusive for women

When female patients are evaluated for heart disease, they face a 50 percent possibility of being misdiagnosed; when they are admitted to the emergency room with stroke symptoms, they are 30 percent more likely to be misdiagnosed than male patients. In the case of diseases such as lupus and multiple sclerosis, women often have to get five medical opinions over more than four years before they can get an accurate diagnosis.

Clinical researchers from the Health Sciences Center at Texas Tech University have traced the issue of misdiagnosis among female patients to curriculum deficiencies in medical school. A 2016 longitudinal survey conducted in medical schools across the United States revealed that less than 45 percent of students felt that gender differences in medical care were adequately addressed in their courses of study.

Gender disparity in medical research is one of the problems faced by medical students; three quarters of clinical studies use male patients as subjects, and this includes research on autoimmune diseases that mostly affect women. These deficiencies in medical training cause future physicians to develop certain biases that can result in a failure to diagnose certain conditions in female patients. An example of this bias at work would be a doctor treating a woman for undetermined abdominal pain and referring her to a gynecologist instead of fully investigating the case.

A woman misdiagnosed because of gender bias may be a victim of medical malpractice. An inaccurate diagnosis can develop into a worsened medical condition, and this is something that female patients should not be expected to endure. Women who feel that their medical needs are not being properly addressed should seek a second opinion, and they should also keep in mind that they may have legal recourse when a misdiagnosis causes them pain, suffering and missed days at work.

Source: Web MD, "Why Women Struggle to Get The Right Diagnosis", Gina Shaw, 06/08/2018

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