Hysterical Women of The Week: 30 September

Our weekly roundup of sexism and dismissal in women’s health

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How the heart attack gender gap costs lives

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) today launched their Bias and Biology briefing and campaign, which I posted about back in June. Their report highlights how the heart attack gender gap costs women’s lives, with “stark inequalities in awareness, diagnosis and treatment of heart attacks… needlessly killing women every day in the UK.”

BHF-funded research estimates that more than 8000 women in England and Wales died over ten years because they did not receive equal treatment to men. The charity wants to put an end to the perception that heart attack is a male disease, and is encouraging women to better understand their risk of a heart attack and its symptoms.

It also says further research is needed to close the heart attack gender gap, and will be convening policy makers and healthcare professionals next year about how to address the issues.

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, Consultant Cardiologist and Associate Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Heart attacks have never been more treatable. Yet women are dying needlessly because heart attacks are often seen as a man’s disease, and women don’t receive the same standard of treatment as men. The studies detailed in this briefing have revealed inequalities at every stage of a woman’s medical journey and although complex to dissect, they suggest unconscious biases are limiting the survival chances of women. Together, we must change this.”

Chris Gale, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Leeds and lead author of some of the studies cited, said: “This problem is not unique to the UK – studies across the globe have also revealed gender-gaps in treatment, suggesting this is a deeply entrenched and complex issue. On their own, the differences in care are very small, but when we look at this across the population of the UK, it adds up to a significant loss of life. We can do better.”

Despite public misconceptions, twice as many women die from coronary heart disease – the underlying cause of most heart attacks – than breast cancer in the UK.

Also in the last week…


‘They looked at my face and put me on a male ward’: LGBT+ women tell of NHS discrimination

The Independent reported on research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, which found that gay, bisexual, transgender and other LGBT+ women living in Britain are subjected to discrimination and prejudice when accessing healthcare services.

LGBT+ women vented their frustrations about receiving rude and ignorant reactions from NHS staff after they brought up their sexuality – as well as often encountering professionals who assumed they were straight.

Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University looked at the experiences of LGBT+ women in Britain between 2010 and 2018 by analysing a number of studies in a range of health areas across different groups.

Catherine Meads, professor of health at Anglia Ruskin University and lead author, said: “Many healthcare staff do not feel they need to know about their patients’ sexuality. However, our research uncovered a worrying lack of knowledge of the issues, unfairness, negativity, and blatant discrimination.

LGBT+ women’s shortfalls in access to care meant they were more likely to experience poor physical quality of life and poor mental quality of life than straight women.


Woman who thought small bump on her vagina was ingrown hair diagnosed with rare cancer

This week’s cancer misdiagnosis story – by now a regular feature of our Hysterical Women roundups – comes from The Sun, who reported on the case of 29-year-old Marisa Strupp, who was reassured by her GP that a bump on her vulva (NB: not her vagina as the article repeatedly states) was “nothing serious”:

A WOMAN who thought a small bump on her vagina was an ingrown hair was diagnosed months later with advanced vulval cancer.

Marisa Strupp, 29, was told by her GP it was nothing serious – as the skin around the anomaly was healthy.

Wanting to remove it anyway, the project manager from Milkwaukee, Wisconsin, put off surgery for five months while busy with work.

It wasn’t until August 2018 that Marisa got it tested. Three weeks later she was told she had vulval cancer.


Gender data gap: Caroline Criado Perez on how healthcare is “systematically discriminating against women”

After being awarded a Royal Society science book prize for Invisible Women, campaigner Caroline Criado Perez spoke to the Evening Standard about how the gender data gap impacts on women’s health:

“For millennia, medicine has functioned on the assumption that male bodies can represent humanity as a whole,” says Criado Perez. “As a result, we have a huge historical data gap when it comes to female bodies. Women are dying, and the medical world is complicit. It needs to wake up.”


And finally…

Millions of women are affected by chronic pain conditions, yet research is under-funded, and women are under-represented in clinical trials. The Society for Women’s Health Research launched this video to explain how they’re working to change that:

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