DO YOU HAVE A DOCTOR WHO IS ALSO YOUR GOOD FRIEND?
Since women are widely perceived to be more health-conscious than men, none of the conditions mentioned above should crop up in national statistics, right? Actually, not really, because many women aren’t actually health-literate.
Ask a bunch of women to name the top illnesses that they are most likely to get, Few would pick Heart Disease.
Fact: Heart disease is the number one killer of women in developed countries. In Singapore, 1 in 3 women die from heart disease and stroke, the same as worldwide, where heart disease claims the lives of a third of all deaths in women.
Osteoporosis too, is another condition affects more women than men. The number of local osteoporotic hip fractures in women over the age of 50 is 8-fold more than the number of breast cancer cases.
In Singapore, there was an increase in the number of newly diagnosed breast cancer cases, from 627 new cases reported between 1968 to 1972, to 6,773 new cases from 2003 to 2007.
Clearly, most women continue to dismiss their risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and cancers.
The reasons, like women, are complex.
1) NOT EVERY WOMAN IS AWARE OF THE DANGERS THAT THEY FACE!
First, not all women are aware of the healthcare dangers they are exposed to over the different stages of life. Hence, they do not take preventive measures, screen for or bring themselves to see doctors for those dangers. This results in missed diagnoses and misdiagnosis of diseases that are exclusive to women.
Take osteoporosis, for example, a condition that affects more women than men. Women are far less likely to take part in the large amounts of physical activity needed to achieve optimal bone mass early in life.
Most women also maintain their figures more often by eating less rather than working out. If you haven’t had the right nutrition or performed enough weight bearing exercise to help you build your bone in your late teens to early 20s, then you really have consider the possibility of osteoporosis.
2) WOMEN HAVE DIFFERENT SYMPTOMS
Secondly, many women don’t know enough to recognise the symptoms of certain diseases when they occur.
This is made worse by the fact that, while men and women share many health issues, their symptoms may be completely different. For example, heart attacks in women may be silent – without the chest pains that men get.
Hence, it may not come across to you that you are experiencing a cardiac problem. A lot of women may dismiss a tummy ache as regular epi-gastric pain, because a lot of women have gastritis. They think “I’m stressed out, I’ve got a bit of chest tightness”, but many don’t think they might be having a heart attack.
As a result, research has shown, women may not be diagnosed or treated as aggressively as men.
Women also wait longer than men to go to an emergency room when having a heart attack, and doctors are slower to recognise the presence of heart attacks in women, which might be why there’s a higher mortality rate for women during their first year of diagnosed cardiac disease.
3) WOMEN AVOID DIAGNOSIS
Lastly, women tend to avoid confronting the truth even when symptoms are staring them in the face. There are women who don’t want anything done about lumps in their breasts, for example.
Or even if they are diagnosed with breast cancer, they fear the side effects that the medicine can bring and refuse to commence treatment.
4) WOMEN CAN'T FIND A DOCTOR THEY TRUST
When did you last have a pap smear? Or a mammogram? Or a bone density scan? Regular health screenings will add years to your life, and life to your years.
A child doesn’t fall down 50 times whilst learning to walk and think, “Hmm, maybe walking isn’t for me.”
If you are afraid of seeing a doctor for a health problem, then maybe you just haven’t found the right one for you yet. Why not give a different doctor another try?