March is Endometriosis Awareness Month

Endometriosis is a common cause of pelvic pain for women, affecting more than six million women in the United States and as many as 200 million women worldwide. Diagnosis, however, is difficult without surgery, and it can take seven to ten years for women to get the correct diagnosis. This week on Fox 17, Dr. Bitner discusses endometriosis, risk factors, and treatment options.

Fact #1: 

Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to uterine tissue begins to grow on the outside of other pelvic organs. The ovaries, fallopian tubes, pelvic walls, appendix, bowels, and even the lungs can be affected. As the tissues start to grow, inflammation and scarring occur. There are four stages of endometriosis and three different types that can occur. Symptoms include painful periods, pelvic pain, severe menstrual cramps, and infertility. Early endometriosis causes minimal symptoms, and not everyone experiences a progression of the disease.

Fact #2:

Anyone who menstruates can develop endometriosis. Women are more likely to develop endometriosis if they have a family history of the disease, started their period before age eleven, or have irregular cycles (heavy bleeding for 7+ days or short cycles).

Fact #3:

The sooner endometriosis is diagnosed, the better. Early treatment can help relieve pain and preserve fertility. Diagnosis involves surgery using a camera through the belly button, and your provider may also take a biopsy of tissue. New, non-invasive diagnosis techniques, including blood tests or menstrual blood samples, are currently in development.

Fact #4:

While there is no cure for endometriosis, treatment options are available. Treatment focuses on stopping or slowing tissue growth. Depending on your diagnosis, pain relievers, hormone therapy, or surgery to remove tissue growths might be recommended.

Patient Story: 

Jane had painful periods since she was thirteen and had to miss school and work for years. She did not know why her periods were so painful and blamed herself for not being able to tolerate her periods like other women. When Jane finally sought help, she was diagnosed with endometriosis. At 20 years old, she did not want her schooling or career to suffer, so Jane insisted on further testing to determine the best treatment course. She elected to have surgery and was able to get both medication and an IUD placed to relieve pain and symptoms. Jane hopes her proactive approach will slow the development of further endometriosis and that she won’t experience infertility.

Health Tip of the Week: 

If you or any of the women in your lives have progressive pain with their periods and painful cramps, encourage them to talk to a healthcare provider. Too many women suffer in silence and have unnecessary shame around their cycles and endometriosis. Treatment options are available, and knowledge is power! 

Watch the full segment.