The Social Barriers to Diagnosing Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a complex condition, and with so many factors at play, it’s no wonder it is so difficult to diagnose. Endometriosis occurs when endometrial-like tissue forms in other parts of the body, causing adhesions and scarring between pelvic organs. Australian studies have uncovered that up to 11% of people with a uterus born between 1973 and 1978 were diagnosed with endometriosis by the ages of 40 to 44. While the statistics are high, it should also be noted that people may struggle for years to get an accurate diagnosis. Before we look at the social barriers to diagnosing endometriosis, we need to have a better understanding of what endometriosis is.

What Is Endometriosis and What Are the Symptoms?

As mentioned above, endometriosis is caused by the growth of endometrial-like tissue in the pelvic region. It grows in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the lining between the abdominal and other pelvic cavities. This tissue is similar to that which forms the lining of the uterus, and as such, it responds to the hormones released by the ovaries. This response triggers bleeding and inflammation, which ultimately leads to scarring, joining the pelvic organs, which are supposed to be separate. 

Symptoms of endometriosis:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Reduced fertility
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Painful periods
  • Painful sex
  • Back pain 
  • Intestinal problems
  • Lethargy

*Some people with endometriosis may experience few to no symptoms

The Barriers to an Endometriosis Diagnosis

Sadly, several factors contribute to delays in diagnosis. In Australia, on average, there is a seven-year delay between the onset of symptoms and people receiving a diagnosis. In the meantime, it affects every aspect of the person’s life, such as their emotional wellbeing, productivity, and ability to participate in school, work, and sporting activities. Despite the far-reaching effects of endometriosis, the disease is under-researched due to a lack of funding. Ultimately this has slowed down the innovation required to improve treatment and diagnosis. 

Other social barriers to diagnosis include the stigma attached to menstruation, the normalisation of pain, and the lack of non-invasive means to diagnose the condition.

The Social Stigma Surrounding Women’s Health

Another well-documented barrier to diagnosis is the clinical gender bias people experience when the patient’s pain is dismissed or not adequately treated. It is not uncommon for doctors who do not know enough about endometriosis to trivialise a patient’s pain and even refuse a referral to a specialist. This is often remedied by seeking a second opinion, and more importantly, going to a doctor or healthcare centre which is dedicated to gynaecological health. Specialist doctors such as gynaecologists should be better equipped to diagnose, manage, and treat endometriosis because it is actually widespread. The best healthcare for any patient is rooted in a patient-centric approach to diagnose, manage, and treat endometriosis accurately. 

Diagnosing and treating endometriosis is not necessarily straightforward as each patient will have a different range of symptoms, types, and stages; however, the right medical professional can make all the difference. OMNI offers non-invasive diagnostics based on their vast wealth of knowledge and experience in the field of gynaecology and endometriosis. For medical assistance in these matters, get in touch with OMNI today to book an appointment. 

OMNI Ultrasound & Gynaecological Care

Condous performs Advanced Endosurgery procedures for women needing intervention for pelvic masses, adnexal pathology, severe endometriosis or hysterectomy. He also runs ‘Hands on’ Live Sheep Laparoscopic Workshops for gynaecologists at Camden Veterinarian School.
Having completed an undergraduate degree with the University of Adelaide, he left Australia in 1993 and moved to London where he completed his training in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. From 2001 to 2003 Condous worked as a Senior Research Fellow at St George’s Hospital, London. At St George’s he set up the Acute Gynaecology Unit, the first in the United Kingdom. It was also during this time that he developed an interest in Early Pregnancy and especially the management of pregnancies of unknown location (PULs). Condous has developed many mathematical models for the prediction of outcome of PULs which have been featured in numerous peer review journals. In 2005, he returned to Australia where he completed his Laparoscopic Fellowship at the Centre for Advanced Reproductive Endosurgery, Royal North Shore, Sydney.

Condous was appointed as a Consultant Gynaecologist and Senior Lecturer at Nepean Hospital in 2006 and soon was made Associate Professor. In 2010, he was made Departmental Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Nepean Hospital. He obtained the MRCOG in 1999 and was made FRANZCOG in 2005. In 2009, he was awarded his Doctorate in Medicine (MD), University of London, for his thesis entitled: “The management of pregnancies of unknown location and the development of new mathematical models to predict outcome”.

Condous has edited three books including the “Handbook of Early Pregnancy Care”, published over 100 papers in international journals and is internationally renowned for his work in Early Pregnancy. He is the Associate Editor for Gynaecologic Obstetric Investigation, which is a European based journal, as well as the Australasian Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine (AJUM). He is on the organising committee and is an invited speaker at the International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynaecology (ISUOG) Scientific meeting in Sydney 2013. His current research interests relate to the management of ectopic pregnancy, 1st trimester growth, PULs and miscarriage and the use of transvaginal ultrasound (in particular sonovaginography, to predict posterior compartment deep infiltrating rectovaginal endometriosis).Condous is also actively involved with post-graduate education including the annual running of the Early Pregnancy and Gynaecological Ultrasound Interactive Courses for Sonologists, Radiologists, Sonographers and Gynaecologists in Australia.