The goal of the annual Endometriosis Awareness Month is to raise awareness of the condition and its symptoms, with a view to achieving earlier diagnosis and treatment for woman around the world.
Endometriosis is the name given to the condition where the endometrial tissue usually forming the lining of the womb (uterus), develops outside of the uterus. It is a benign condition that is neither an infection nor contagious but can be very painful, debilitating and for some, can cause infertility.
Throughout each cycle, women experience hormonal changes. These hormones are released naturally and cause the lining of the womb to thicken in preparation of receiving a fertilised egg. When pregnancy does not occur, the lining will then break down and be released from the body through menstruation. In the case of endometriosis, as the lining thickens, tissue grows outside of the womb causing inflammation, pain and subsequently the formation of scar tissue each month.
“The disease is the second most common gynaecological condition, it is estimated that around 1.5 – 2 million women in the UK have it.”
As many as 176 million women worldwide are affected by the disease, and with no current cure, research is very important in advancing treatment. Although the disease affects a large number of women, it can take an average of 7.5 years to receive a firm diagnosis. This is due to a combination of lack of awareness of the condition, causing women to attribute their symptoms to period pain, and the unpredictable nature of symptoms as it manifests in a variety of ways that can present at various points in the cycle, including bleeding between periods and experiencing pain during intercourse.
There is also often a delay in diagnosis as unfortunately, endometriosis cannot be diagnosed by scans, blood tests or internal examinations, the only definitive method is laparoscopy. A laparoscopy is performed by inserting a camera into the pelvis through a small cut to the navel. The surgeon can see the pelvic organs and any evidence of endometrial implants or cysts.