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Hurstville, NSW 2220

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Why can it take so long to diagnose endometriosis?

Endometriosis has been seen as a “mystery illness” that can take a long time to diagnose. There are a number of reasons why it may be difficult to identify the disease, but often it is due to the fact that the symptoms can be mistaken for other disorders and at times, the patients may be too uncomfortable to discuss this with their doctor.

In other instances, the pain and discomfort are sometimes not taken as seriously as it should be among medical staff and with a lack of screening processes in place, this can also add to problems. For some women, it can mean living in chronic pain which can have a debilitating impact on their physical and mental health.

Astoundingly, it can take between 7-8 years to get a diagnosis, research showing that women are less likely to receive the appropriate treatment for their pain compared to men. The psychological impact of chronic pain is severe to say at least for any condition, however an undiagnosed one that is not completely understood can have a significant on mental health and wellbeing.

Currently, the only way to help diagnose endometriosis is through laparoscopic surgery, an invasive procedure which requires a general anaesthetic and can come with delays and risks. Research being conducted from the University of South Australia, however, has suggested there may be a less invasive, less costly and earlier way to find a diagnosis.

Obstetrics and gynaecological sonographer specialist, Alison Deslandes has led a systemic review of 35 articles from the Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine and has suggested that transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) can be used as a valuable method to help achieve an accurate diagnosis.

Chair of The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Specific Interests Sexual Health Network, Dr Amy Moten has agreed that a “good quality TVUS should always be part of a diagnostic work up” when looking after a patient who has symptoms that may suggest endometriosis.

Although TVUS is seen as only one piece of a large, complicated puzzle, it may help to reduce delays in diagnosing the disease.

Although there is currently no cure for endometriosis, the symptoms can be managed effectively, and if the diagnosis is made earlier, treatment can begin earlier. Treated during the initial stages, patients will be able to effectively prevent the disease from spreading to other organs and avoid unnecessary complications that may impact on their ability to achieve a natural pregnancy.