Women and men get sick in different ways

Women's Health

Today we would like to introduce you to a new discipline in medicine called “gender medicine”.

Gender medicine has nothing to do with the fact that men get prostate cancer, and women get breast cancer (which, by the way, can occur in men too). Gender medicine is a new discipline, which tries to explain why, for example, women have different symptoms than men when they have a heart attack, and why many doctors don’t recognize that men suffer from osteoporosis too, so men are frequently underdiagnosed for this bone weakness.

A group of medical researchers from the University of Padua (Italy) published March 21 an article in the journal Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine titled “Gender medicine: a task for the third millennium” where they describe this discipline for the medical community.

Women and men are medically different in many ways, beyond the fact of their separate sexual organs. They differ in how they respond to many drugs, suffer side effects, are affected by cancer and other diseases, how they respond to pain, and how they manifest symptoms.

But surprisingly perhaps, many researchers and even most doctors are not very aware of these differences, and this article intends to make this issue better known to doctors (and since we here at Mais Saúde like to be ultra-current, we are introducing you to this topic at the same time).

A big reason that much is not known about sexual differences in medicine is that up until recently, a majority of research studies were only performed with male subjects. Often even in animal studies, only male animals were used (apparently researchers were reluctant to test females who might be “weaker”, subject to hormone variations, or even pregnant).

To give you an idea, here are a few differences:

1) Men and women may manifest symptoms differently

During a heart attack, men often feel a chest constriction and a pain that radiates down their left arm; in contrast, many women (but not always) notice pain in the abdomen along with nausea. For this reason, sometimes woman’s heart attacks are not diagnosed as quickly.

2) Women and men are evaluated differently by doctors

As far back as 1991, an editorial was published in the esteemed New England Journal of Medicine highlighting the fact that women who were hospitalized to investigate heart disease underwent fewer diagnostic studies—such as cardiac catheterizations—than men, even though heart disease in women tends to be more complex and severe.

On the other side of the coin, many doctors have ingrained in their mind that osteoporosis is mostly a woman’s disease. But men also suffer from this bone weakness, and when diagnosed, men are often diagnosed later, when they have already suffered a bone fracture.

3) Cancer presents differently with different responses to treatment

When colo-rectal cancer (the second leading cause of cancer deaths in both sexes) occurs in women, it strikes an average five years later than men, and unlike men, it usually presents in the right colon. But women tend to survive colon cancer better than men, and they respond differently to chemotherapy agents.

For many more examples and details, you can take a look at the original article, and we at Mais Saúde will keep you informed of gender differences as they appear in various research studies.

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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

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