Women who have endometriosis are not being diagnosed quickly enough, MPs have said, citing it as completely ‘unacceptable’.
BBC’s Newsbeat reported that 2,600 women spoke to the All Parliamentary Group on Women’s Health, with 40% saying they had seen a doctor 10 times before being diagnosed.
This is despite the fact that it’s the second most common gynaecological condition, affecting roughly one in 10 women in the UK.
Many of the women who spoke about the condition said they had to do their own research to understand the illness.
Endometriosis is a common condition where tissue that behaves like the lining of the womb is found outside of the womb.
These pieces of tissue can be found in many different areas of the body, but they are most commonly found on the ovaries, on the lining of the pelvis behind the uterus and covering the top of the vagina, says the NHS Choices site.
It causes sufferers to experience painful or heavy periods, pain during sex and fertility issues.
Lack of research means many women are left suffering without the support they need. According to a survey by Endometriosis UK, 25% of its membership had considered suicide because of the condition.
A study in 2011 found that endometriosis accounts for a significant loss of productivity among sufferers, equating to roughly 11 hours per woman, per week.
There is no cure for the condition and treatment usually combines a mixture of painkillers and hormone treatment to help make life more manageable.
Endometriosis can be very difficult to diagnose because of the common symptoms – namely abdominal pain and heavy periods – which can be attributed to other conditions, Dr Helen Webberley from Oxford Online Pharmacy previously told HuffPost UK Lifestyle.
Additionally, she said there are cases where women suffering from endometriosis might not have any symptoms at all.
“There is no ‘test’ that GPs can do,” she said. “It can only be diagnosed with a laparoscopy – or sometimes on a very detailed ultrasound scan – and we can’t justify the risk of this procedure on everyone with simple abdominal pain or heavy periods.”
Dr Webberley mentioned that the contraceptive pill could prove to be an effective treatment for mild endometriosis.
“The treatment of mild to moderate endometriosis is to suppress ovulation and stop the monthly cycle of endometrial build up and the best way to do this is to use the contraceptive pill, something which can be done without the need for invasive tests,” she said.
“If this stops the pain and bleeding then you are closer to a diagnosis. Suppressing ovulation will stop the damage that endometriosis causes, saving the fallopian tubes and helping to promote fertility.”