With the diagnostic delay the same in Australia, doctors here could also help reduce the suffering of women by investigating possible endometriosis when girls or women present with distressing period pain or pelvic pain.
It is estimated one in ten women live with the condition, which untreated can develop into daily chronic pain and lead to infertility. It also places a significant burden on the Australian economy, with an estimated $6 billion per annum in direct costs of medical and surgical treatments for women and $600 million for adolescent girls with endometriosis.
Adelaide-based Gynaecologist and Chair of the Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia Dr Susan Evans says the problem with endometriosis is that it can be discounted when examinations such as ultrasound scans are negative and also because symptoms may vary.
“Early diagnosis of endometriosis is extremely important for women, because the impact of delaying treatment can be devastating,” she said.
“Early recognition and management of dysmenorrhea, even in young teens, can avoid infertility, keep women in the workforce, and contribute to the emotional wellbeing of girls, women and families in this country.
“Currently there is a gap between best-practice early intervention and the experience of girls who present to their school, GP, allied health professional, specialist or hospital with severe pain. Frequently pain is minimised or considered just part of being a woman.
“But diagnosis is not just a matter for clinicians, it is important young women and their families educate themselves about normal period pain and can advocate for themselves if they believe their symptoms are distressing.”
Correct diagnosis of endometriosis requires surgical intervention, known as a laparoscopy, where a biopsy is performed and the affected tissue is examined under a microscope.
Dr Evans says that while some pain with periods is normal, if periods are distressing or associated pain is preventing daily activities, then it should be investigated.