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Why are women with brain tumours being dismissed as attention-seekers?

Sean

Senior Member
Messages
7,378
Women with serious medical conditions are more likely than men to have their symptoms attributed to depression and anxiety, and face delayed diagnosis according to new research.

[snip]

Each year in the UK, approximately 700 women with bladder or kidney cancer experience delayed diagnosis. It takes longer to get referred to a specialist, even when presenting with exactly the same symptoms as men. One publication, The Girl Who Cried Pain: A Bias Against Women in the Treatment of Pain, found that women were less likely to receive aggressive treatment when diagnosed, and were more likely to have their pain characterised as “emotional,” “psychogenic” and therefore “not real.”

http://www.theguardian.com/society/...-medical-symptoms-depression-diagnosis-gender
 

panckage

Senior Member
Messages
777
Location
Vancouver, BC
Probably the way women communicate. If someone sticks solely to facts a logical interpretation is reached. OTOH if someone talks to a doctor about feelings (especially since most doctors are males) then a psychological cause is a more likely interpretation
 

chipmunk1

Senior Member
Messages
765
I wonder how many unnecessary deaths this produces, besides all of the suffering.

More than they will ever admit.

There is not only a gender bias but also often prejudice against social status, educational background, age, mental illness etc. built into psychosomatic diagnosis.

A colleague visited the doctor suffering from headaches, gastric symptoms & general malaise. She had a lively 3 year old, her husband was away for work a lot & most of her family were overseas. She had trouble coping at work. People commented on how her personality had changed. Doctor sent her to a psychiatrist. She died 6 months later of a brain tumour.

A friend of mine felt unwell with all over body pain, she went to the doctor who told her that she was suffering from depression and gave her antidepressants. She didn't take the antidepressants as she wasn't depressed and the pain got worse. She went back to the doctor three or four times over a year with the pain increasing and the doctor told her that she was depressed. She eventually insisted on a diagnosis and the doctor reluctantly sent her for blood tests and then to a rheumatologist. She was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. She was also losing hair, couldn't lose weight and menstruation had ceased. Her doctor told her the hair loss was due to age, she wasn't that fat and the emotional fluctuations were depression and tried to give her anti depressants again. She saw another doctor and was diagnosed with PCOS. The doctor obviously saw her as some kind of time wasting neurotic when she had two chronic illnesses.

I presented to the ER with agonising chest pain. It took them an hour to see me and they were reluctant to do an ECG. Proposed diagnoses included "anxiety attack" and (no joke) "something to do with your period". It turned out that I had comorbid gallstones and kidney stones

Similar experiences with cervical dystonia (neurological condition) which affects more women than men. I remember from the dystonia bulletin boards men’s experience generally was an early referral to a neurologist, and early diagnosis and treatment. For women it would often take years before being referred. They were most usually told depression or anxiety, and when it didn’t respond to SSRIs or CBT being labelled somatoform was not uncommon. Many (myself included) had a huge battle and years to get referred, diagnosed and treated.

Thanks Jules Montagu for writing this piece. I have long held that the medical profession is institutionally sexist having experienced the symptoms of my multiple potentially life-threatening autoimmune diseases being dismissed, misdiagnosed and misattributed to "emotion/stress/anxiety" largely I believe because of my gender (as gender was sometimes mentioned explicitly by doctors eg. "women are like xxx"or "women suffer more from stress"). A lot of women with autoimmune diseases complain of the same kind of treatment and it can take many years for women (suffering all the while) to get any kind of autoimmune disease diagnosis.
However, that being said, aren't neurologists among the worst offenders for this kind of poor treatment of diseases that predominantly affect women?
 
Last edited:
Messages
3,263
@Sean, this is an interesting article, thanks for posting. Here's a paper they mention in the article, "The Girl Who Cried Pain: A Bias Against Women in the Treatment of Pain" (freely available, so can post here fine). A little old now, but still an interesting read.

@chipmunk makes good points that it not just women who are discriminated against, those of lower socioeconomic status are much more likely to be slapped with a psychogenic label (e.g., functional neurological disorder, psychogenic nonepileptic seizures). And much less likely to have the skills and resources to question it.

Then, the higher incidence of these "disorders" in low SES groups is used as support for a psychogenic causation! Go figure!

A similar circularity of thinking happens for gender, I believe.
 

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Gingergrrl

Senior Member
Messages
16,171
It's not only in medical scenarios and in my early 20's my car had a gas leak and I took it to a mechanic. He told me that "I must have driven too far and not paid attention and ran out of gas" (which was absurd.) He would never have said that to a man.

I was ready to leave when a little boy (probably about 5 yrs old) ran up to us and exclaimed, "Ma'am something is leaking out of the bottom of your car..." Only at that point did the mechanic check it out and it turned out the gas tank was corroded with a huge hole and had to be replaced. The mechanic listened to a five year old boy over me, a female, who was in my 20's at that time!

I was completely calm and rational and if given a script, I am certain if a male and female went to a doctor (especially a neurologist or cardiologist) and each just read the script verbatim, the male would be taken more seriously than the female. It's sad but true.
 

Cheshire

Senior Member
Messages
1,129
There is not only a gender bias but also often prejudice against social status, educational background, age, mental illness etc. built into psychosomatic diagnosis.

A friend of mine of Moroccan origin has a brother with Down's syndrome. When he started to feel unwell, his parents (very low social background, barely speaking French) were discharged numerous time from the ER with things like all in his head, exageration... untill he started to have high fever. I can't remember what he was suffering from but he had to undergo an operation, stayed 2 months at the hospital. That could have been avoided if he had been diagnosed earlier... So traumatising for him and his family and costly for society.

My friend had the impression that for some doctors, it was more than the question of symptoms being taken seriously, a kind "is it worth doing all this for him?". A eugenistic laissez-faire. Some patients are more undeserving than others.
 
Messages
10,157
Probably the way women communicate. If someone sticks solely to facts a logical interpretation is reached. OTOH if someone talks to a doctor about feelings (especially since most doctors are males) then a psychological cause is a more likely interpretation

Just how do women communicate? I hope you don't mean that women don't communicate using logic and that they are too emotional.

When a man goes to a doctor and says "I am getting lots of headaches, blurred vision" and a woman goes to a doctor and says "I am getting lots of headaches, blurred vision", why should a w0man be treated differently? Same symptoms, same description A bias does exist. If the woman starts crying and gets emotional about the symptoms, it's put down to emotional/psychological issues etc. If the man starts crying, it's wow you must really be in pain. It's a ridiculous and unfair bias that is causing needless suffering.
 
Messages
3,263
Probably the way women communicate. If someone sticks solely to facts a logical interpretation is reached. OTOH if someone talks to a doctor about feelings (especially since most doctors are males) then a psychological cause is a more likely interpretation
Don't know about you but I (being a woman) am so emotional I can't get my facts out for the doctor without bursting into tears and creating a huge puddle on the floor.

If only I could be strong, brave and logical like a man!
 

Cheshire

Senior Member
Messages
1,129
Interesting blog post:
http://www.misstreated.org/blog/201...men-are-dying-women-are-lying-or-overreacting

In a series of studies by Gabrielle Chiaramonte, doctors were asked to evaluate two hypothetical patients: a man and woman who presented with identical "textbook" symptoms of heart attack and risk factors for heart disease. Half of the vignettes included a note that the patient had recently been through a stressful life event and half of them didn't. In the patients without the note about stress, doctors were equally good at diagnosing both the man and woman as having a heart attack. (Showing that if you tell them a person has chest pain, shortness of breath, irregular heart rhythm and a high risk for a heart disease, most doctors are capable of labeling a person as having a heart attack.)

But this is where things get interesting. Once stress was added as a factor, an enormous gender gap appeared. Now only 15% of doctors diagnosed the women as having heart disease compared to 56% for the men. Why did this happen? For men, doctors saw the addition of stress as a confirmatory piece of evidence of their initial suspicion of heart attack. Stress can bring on heart attacks, so if the man is stressed out, then that's further evidence that he's having one. However, for female patients, the addition of stress as a factor caused a "shift of meaning" in the doctor's mind, as the researchers put it. That is, once a doctor sees that a woman is stressed, he or she immediately thinks, "oh, the patient must be having a panic attack" and no longer attributes her obvious symptoms of heart attack to organic causes.

Thanks Sally via tweeter (can't remember your PR name)
 

sarah darwins

Senior Member
Messages
2,508
Location
Cornwall, UK
Women are irrational, that's all there is to that!
Their heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags!
They're nothing but exasperating, irritating,
vacillating, calculating, agitating,
Maddening and infuriating hags!

Why can't a woman be more like a man?
Men are so honest, so thoroughly square;
Eternally noble, historically fair;
Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
Why can't a woman be like that?

Why does every one do what the others do?
Can't a woman learn to use her head?
Why do they do everything their mothers do?
Why don't they grow up — well, like their fathers instead?

Why is thinking something women never do?
Why is logic never even tried?
Straightening up their hair is all they ever do.
Why don't they straighten up the mess that's inside?
Why can't a woman behave like a man?
If I was a woman who'd been to a ball,
Been hailed as a princess by one and by all;
Would I start weeping like a bathtub overflowing?
And carry on as if my home were in a tree?
Would I run off and never tell me where I'm going?
Why can't a woman be like me?

[Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady]