For many women with health issues, getting diagnosed can be a major struggle (and it can be even harder for young women). And now, research shows that, on average, it takes years longer for a woman to get diagnosed than for a man with the same disease.
In the study, published in Nature Communications, researchers from the University of Copenhagen examined patient records from hospitals in Denmark from 1994 to 2015 to determine how old patients were when they received a diagnosis. They discovered that women received cancer diagnoses when they were an average of two and a half years older than men, while in the case of diseases like diabetes, they were diagnosed an average of four and a half years later. (However, some diseases that affect women more frequently, like osteoporosis, are actually discovered sooner in women than in men.)
The researchers only used data from hospitalized patients, so it’s not clear if this same pattern affects people who are diagnosed by their general practitioner or at a clinic. The study’s lead author, Søren Brunak of the University of Copenhagen, also told Reuters that there might be an even bigger discrepancy because women generally see a doctor sooner than men do.
As Reuters points out, it’s not clear if this phenomenon results from doctors failing to listen to female patients, or if it’s caused by something else that has yet to be discovered. However, the issue of women—and especially women of color—being discriminated against and ignored by medical professionals is well documented, so we honestly wouldn’t be all that surprised if that were a factor here.