National plan for endometriosis
The Federal Government has released a national action plan on endometriosis.
At least 10 per cent of women of reproductive age are estimated to have endometriosis , otherwise known as ‘endo’.
The condition occurs when tissue similar to uterus lining grows outside the uterus, causing inflammation, pain, fatigue and sometimes infertility.
It is an area that women’s health advocates say is woefully underrecognised. Many sufferers have stories of not being believed or being lied to by undereducated GPs trying to treat it.
Some have even called on the Federal Government to apologise for the glaring lack of attention on the common condition.
“On behalf of all of those in parliament and all of those who have been responsible for our medical system, I apologise,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
“This condition should have been acknowledged at an earlier time in a more powerful way and will never be forgotten again.”
Mr Hunt says the new plan “outlines a new approach to improving awareness and understanding of endometriosis, speeding up diagnosis, and developing better diagnostic and treatment options”.
It is backed by $4.5 million in funding, $1 million of which will be used to set up a steering group to oversee the plan’s implementation.
The plan is a three-pronged approach designed to increase awareness, education, clinical management and care, and further research.
The plan’s five-year goal is: “To see a marked improvement against the objectives of the National Action Plan, with indication of progress against the overarching goal of an improvement in quality of life for women, girls and other individuals living with endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain.”
The lack of awareness of endometriosis is not limited to the general public.
Experts say there is a clear need to improve knowledge of the condition among medical practitioners and healthcare professionals as well.
Steering group member Sylvia Freedman says dispelling professional misinformation is a big part of the effort, with women having been given dangerous and absurd advice in the past, including being told to “go and have a baby to cure your pain”.
“One GP said to a [Canberra] woman with endo, to go and have a baby and when she said; ‘I don’t even have a boyfriend or husband so that’s a bit logistically inconvenient,’ he said; ‘Go to Civic, go to the pub and have a one-night stand, before you miss the boat.’
“That’s a GP obviously uninformed about endo, encouraging unsafe, unprotected sex with a stranger to cure pain and address a woman’s fertility problems,” Ms Freedman said.
“I’m sure most people’s experiences with the GPs aren’t that inappropriate, but lack of GP and healthcare professional education is a major, major issue.”