Missed, delayed and incorrect diagnoses are common occurrences in the U.S. and contribute to the high rate of medical mistakes. No one is safe from this error, but it affects more women than men, reports the Association of Health Care Journalists.
Why is this true? What can you do to lower the risk of a diagnostic error?
Lack of research that includes women
One of the reasons for misdiagnoses is from previous research studies failing to include women. The medical community saw men as easier to study due to fewer differences among them and less hormonal activity.
The FDA also had a policy that did not permit drug trials to include women likely to become pregnant. Although women are now in more studies, underrepresentation is still high in heart disease and cancer, which are leading causes of death in the U.S.
These practices led not only to research that did not examine effects on women, but also to a lack of research about conditions that only pertain to women. With inadequate information about women and disease, doctors have a higher chance of missing a diagnosis or giving an incorrect diagnosis.
Lack of trust in women's reliability
Unfortunately, unintentional bias against the credibility of women regarding their health still exists. Medical providers are less likely to believe a woman's report of her symptoms, particularly when there is no objective evidence to back it up.
This dismissal leads to fewer questions, interventions and correct conclusions. Instead, some healthcare professionals attribute symptoms to psychological influences or accuse women of exaggeration or falsehood.
Tips for avoiding a misdiagnosis
Not every doctor you see will treat you disrespectfully, but all of them are capable of making errors. It is important prepare for your visit. Keep written or digital track of your symptoms, including when they come and how long they last. State them straightforwardly instead of through a story-like description to avoid the details getting lost.
Ask your own questions and request appropriate tests if necessary. Seek a second or third opinion if your first provider does not prove helpful.