Women have to visit GP more times than men to get positive diagnosis

How often have you visited your local surgery before you received the correct diagnosis? Once? Twice? Three times, perhaps?

A shocking new survey, seen exclusively by the Daily Mirror, has found that 476,000 British women have had to visit their GP more than 11 times for a positive diagnosis, yet only a third as many men have ­experienced the same difficulty.

These new statistics, from a survey carried out by specialist lawyers Bolt Burdon Kemp, reveal a worrying disparity, a gender health gap putting women’s lives in danger.

Earlier this year, a study of seven million patients over 21 years reported that women are diagnosed later than men across 700 diseases.

It found that a diabetes diagnosis for female patients will come four-and-a-half years later than one for a man, while on average, women with cancer are diagnosed two-and-a-half years later.

These delays are costing women their lives, something Nicky Peel, 52, from Brecon Beacons in Powys is all too aware, after repeatedly having lung cancer symptoms dismissed as anxiety or the perimenopause.

“It all started in 2015 when I was 48,” she recalls. “I began waking up with the feeling I couldn’t get enough breath. My GP asked if I was depressed or had anxiety and started going down that route.

"They wanted to put me on antidepressants. I did challenge that because I’ve never been anxious, I’ve certainly never been depressed, but in the end, they put it all down to being a women of certain age… the perimenopause.”

It seems her doctors never ­considered it might be lung cancer because Nicky wasn’t at high risk. “I went back and forth to the surgery for well over a year,” she says.

“Up until then, I’d not been to the doctor ever so I knew something was wrong, but because I was a woman of a certain age, you think OK, perhaps they’re right. I continued to have the symptoms but just left it. I wish that I’d pushed more.”

Nicky was finally diagnosed with lung cancer after almost 18 months of repeatedly being told it was all in her head. “I’m now stage 4,” she says. “I’ve had progression to both lungs. This illness is going to shorten my life by 20, 30 years.”

So it is in no way an exaggeration to say that disparity in treatment is literally killing women, and statistics support this. For example, when it comes to heart attacks, differences in care for women are estimated to have contributed to at least 8,200 avoidable deaths in England and Wales in the last decade.

British Heart Foundation-funded research has shown that women having a heart attack are up to 50% more likely than men to receive the wrong initial diagnosis and are less likely to get a pre-hospital ECG.

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