8 March 2021 International Women's Day. This years theme is #ChooseToChallenge

A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day.
We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let's all choose to challenge.

Here at Together in Surgical Menopause, we decided to look into Gender Bias in Medicine. The purpose of discussing Gender bias in medicine is to highlight unintended but systematic neglect of either men or women but we’ll be focussing on women as its International Women’s Day.     ‘Knowledge-mediated’ gender bias implies neglecting patients belonging to the sex in which a disease is known to be less common or severe, for example we often think of breast cancer only occurring in women but men can get it too.

Unconscious biases are limiting the survival chances of women.   

Historically it was assumed that the only differences in the male and female body are size and reproductive function.   For years medical education has been based on the male ‘norm’ (a 70kg make form), anything outside of this ‘norm’ is considered ‘abnormal’ or ‘atypical’.  This gender bias has been traced back to at least the Ancient Greeks, who, thanks to Aristotle, viewed the female form as ‘a mutilated male’ body. Thankfully this is no longer the case, however many referenced medical books still lack sex-specific information and include results from clinical trials presented as valid for men and women, despite women being excluded from the study.    

Over the past 20 years research has shown that women are not just smaller men, the male and female bodies differ down to a cellular level.   So why isn’t this being taught?  This data gap, caused by the exclusion and low representation of the female body in clinical research trials and studies is failing women across the globe.  

Coronary Heart Disease kills more than twice as many women as breast cancer in the UK every year and is the single biggest killer of women worldwide, yet it’s still widely considering a man’s disease.  Research shows that women are 50% more likely to receive a wrong initial diagnosis when they are having a heart attack.  Both men and women who are initially misdiagnosed have a 70% higher risk of dying.   Despite this, UK research funding for Coronary Heart Disease in men remains far greater than for women and top UK medical professors now refer to research from North America and Europe as its more inclusive.

One in ten women struggle with endometriosis, yet it takes on average seven to eight years to be diagnosed.  It seems that unless a woman is trying to conceive, they are often overlooked by doctors when it comes to gynaecological issues.  This delay in diagnosis can allow the endometriosis to grow and spread and in some cases can result in major surgery and surgical menopause.

“The bodies, symptoms and diseases that affect half of the world’s population are being dismissed, disbelieved and ignored.  It’s time to stop dismissing women, and start saving them.” - Caroline Criado Perez

The data and research gap is why we have to #ChooseToChallenge  - only you know your own body, only you know your ‘norm’.  
The greater we challenge, the greater the change.