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LAist: Women’s Health Series—Misdiagnoses, Gender Bias and the Psychologizing of Pain

The LAist radio program AirTalk recently featured Sarah Kilpatrick, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai, in a discussion about gender disparities in healthcare.  

Because most of the research used to guide patient care has been conducted on men, little is known about how to best care for women, Kilpatrick told AirTalk host Larry Mantle.

“Federal funding underfunds areas of research that are about women with high-burden diseases … that lead to early death or significant disability over one’s life,” Kilpatrick said. “Cervical cancer and ovarian cancer are underfunded compared to male-based cancers like prostate cancer, for example.”

Endometriosis, a common condition that occurs in 10% of women, has long been underfunded, but Kilpatrick said it’s “finally beginning to get the attention it deserves.” She has been working with other specialists to diagnose the illness and start patients on earlier treatment to reduce morbidity.

Kilpatrick told Mantle she believes there has been a historical reluctance to include women in clinical trials because they experience a menstrual cycle, menopause and may be taking birth control pills. “Those factors really change the physiology of the patient, so it’s much harder to actually do those studies,” she said. 

Despite recent advances, there is still more work to be done, Kilpatrick said.

“We’re so far behind in our knowledge gap for women and how women’s health is different that we just need to be on superspeed to get this moving forward so that we can have the information that we need,” Kilpatrick told Mantle.  

Click here to listen to the complete episode of AirTalk.