Why are women often misdiagnosed?

Jame K. Heskett, MD
Family Medicine
I think some women are misdiagnosed for a few simple and preventable reasons:
1) Dr. visits are so quick, and women tend to hold back subtle concerns out of fear of feeling needy or burdensome to the doctor. So, if the doctor doesn't ask the right questions, health issues may not even come up. Many doctors don't have the time they used to to explore completely a woman's needs and concerns.
2) A standard checkup may not reveal any abnormalities. Most people do not know this. If testing is not specifically chosen to diagnose certain health problems, a "normal" check up may give a false impression that everything is ok.
3) We have lost touch with our connection with our bodies. Then we are not in tune with the signs our bodies are giving us that something is awry. We are too busy with our families, our career, our community to take the time to take care of ourselves sooner rather than later.
4) It is hard, in the face of a doctor, to advocate for yourself. I know many women who would have been misdiagnosed had they not really pushed the doctor to continue investigating a certain symptom or concern.

The first step to preventing misdiagnosis is for women to get back to a total-body connection and awareness of our physiology, and then trusting our instincts when we feel that something "just isn't right". And when something feels that way, to be honest with the Dr. upfront, and not be afraid to advocate if your concerns are not taken seriously.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Once upon a time, women were routinely given a diagnosis of hysteria to explain many of their medical ills. This was particularly true if the symptoms were vague, infrequent or were accompanied by psychological distress. Although diagnosis of disease in women has come a long way since then, there are still some instances that hark back to those days. Symptoms in women are still falsely attributed to the rigors of everyday life - work, overscheduled calendars, and caring for family and home.

But sometimes a diagnosis is flat-out wrong.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.