Endometriosis is a condition that affects 1 in 10 Australian women, yet it’s still misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and often left untreated.
We answer a few of your questions about endo below, and remind our readers that painful periods are not normal. You need to see your GP if the pain persists; you may have endo, and help is available.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a medical condition where tissue that is similar to the lining of the uterus is found in other parts of the body. It usually develops on organs in the pelvic cavity – the ovaries, fallopian tubes, outer side of the uterus, and bowel – but it can develop on the lungs, skin, and even brain in rare cases.
How did I get endometriosis?
Endometriosis can occur in any menstruating woman, and is most common among women in their 30s and 40s.
You are more likely to get endometriosis if you:
- Have never had children
- Have long periods (more than 7 days)
- Have short menstrual cycles (27 days or less)
- Have a family member with endometriosis
- Have a condition where the normal flow of menstrual blood gets blocked.
Can I manage my endo with diet?
There is no known cause or cure for endometriosis, but some studies show that can alter your diet to help prevent the onset and manage the symptoms.
To prevent getting endometriosis, it may be advisable to avoid foods that are high in trans-fat, red meat, rich in gluten, and also high FODMAPs foods. Some studies also show that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, calcium, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids are connected with a lower risk of developing endo.
Does ethnicity play a role in getting endometriosis?
Yes, it does appear that ethnicity may play a role in your likelihood to be diagnosed with endometriosis.
Historically, Caucasian women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis than black women, and Asian women are twice as likely as Caucasian women.
However, it’s not entirely clear if endometriosis is actually more common in these groups or if racial bias has played a historical role in diagnosis. Good access to medical care and finding a doctor who takes your pain seriously is likely to increase your chance of diagnosis a lot.
Who are at risk of developing endometriosis?
A woman’s risk of getting endometriosis increases if she has a close relative with endometriosis, started getting periods early (before age 11), has short menstrual cycles (less than 27 days), has long menstrual periods (more than 7 days), of if she is infertile.
Can teenagers get endometriosis?
Unfortunately, it is quite common for teenagers and adolescents to get endometriosis. Fortunately, there are many ways to treat and manage the condition.
How is it endo diagnosed?
Unfortunately, there is no simple way to diagnose endometriosis. An ultrasound can detect cysts in the ovaries, but this does not necessarily indicate endometriosis.
To date the most effective way to confirm endometriosis is via laparoscopic surgery. A gynaecologic surgeon needs to collect tissue samples which can be tested in a lab before a sure diagnosis can be made.
How do you cure endo?
There is no cure for endometriosis, but it can be managed with pain medication, hormone treatment, or surgery. If endo is impacting your daily life, speak to your GP and gynaecologist about options for managing it.
Why is it so hard to diagnose endo?
Diagnosis is difficult because the only way to accurately diagnose endo is by testing the tissue inside your body. Doing this requires a biopsy which can only be dome with laparoscopic surgery.
Hospital wait times can be very long, and some women just don’t want to undergo surgery. As a result, many sufferers go without a proper diagnosis or treatment for many years.
Does endo run in families?
Yes, endometriosis can be inherited from both your mother’s and father’s side of the family. Having a close relative with endometriosis greatly increase your risk of getting the disease.
Will I be able to have children?
Despite the correlation between endo and infertility, about 50–70% of sufferers will have no problem falling pregnant.
If you’ve been diagnosed with endometriosis and are planning on having children, talk to your GP about your fertility and family planning. Ask for a referral to your gynaecologist if you have further concerns.
Is a hysterectomy a cure for endometriosis?
In severe cases, patients may opt for a hysterectomy to treat endometriosis. Unfortunately, even if the uterus and all the endometriosis gets removed, the endo can return. While it relieves symptoms in many people and can be life-changing, a hysterectomy is not 100% guaranteed to bring full pain relief.
Is pregnancy a cure?
Having a baby will not cure your endometriosis, but some women do say that pregnancy and breastfeeding brings relief from the pain. This is likely because of hormone changes and because your period stops for a while.
After birth and breastfeeding, some women find that their endo symptoms disappear for life and others find they return. There’s no real way to tell what will happen in your case.
I have endo, do I have cancer?
Endometriosis is not cancer, but having endometriosis may increase your chances of getting ovarian and endometrial cancers. That said, these cancers are still quite rare and your risk remains below 1%.
I have severe pain, but I haven’t been diagnosed with endo, what is my next step?
Go and see your GP, suggest that you may have endometriosis, and ask for a referral to Northside Gynaecology. We can assess your condition and arrange for laparoscopic surgery if necessary. Following a biopsy, we can confirm the presence of endometriosis and take the necessary steps to manage your condition.
At Northside Gynaecology, we use a new laparoscopic method to diagnose endometriosis, and we can place you on a endo management plan as soon as possible. We can also perform single-cut laparoscopies that leave only one tiny scar (no need to ditch the bikini!).
If you still have a gynaecological question, you would like answered, and you didn’t find it here, then please do not hesitate to ask us your question.