ROANOKE, Va. - March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. If you're like me, you may not have ever heard that word...until you were diagnosed with it.
I have Stage IV endometriosis, the most severe stage on a scale of one to four. This is something I've only shared with very close friends and family until now.
I've always had the symptoms. I started talking to my first doctor about some of those symptoms in high school, but was told it was just part of being a woman. Every month includes a few days of extreme pain where I need a heating pad and what feels like handfulls of ibuprofen but even then, I'm still not without pain and discomfort. This has gone on for years.
Two years ago, I had what's called a laparoscopy when I was put under anesthesia for surgery to officially diagnose my Endometriosis and clean some of it out. I was out of work for a week while I recovered.
Endometriosis is something I will be dealing with for years.
The debilitating reproductive disease causes extreme pain and can cause infertility. It affects one in ten women of childbearing age in the United States, and an estimated 200 million women worldwide, according to The Endometriosis Foundation of America.
"Endometriosis is a relatively common problem of reproductive age women characterized by inflammation in the pelvis due to growth of tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus, called the endometrium. The endometriosis implants in the pelvis cause inflammation which leads to the three most common symptoms: excessive discomfort just before and early in menstrual bleeding each month, certain spots that can hurt during intercourse, and delay in becoming pregnant," said Dr. Christopher Williams, with Reproductive Medicine and Surgery Center of Virginia, who treated me.
During my surgery, Dr. Williams had to make a few small incisions. He found stage IV endometriosis and removed an endometrioma, which is a cystic collection of endometriosis in one my ovaries. I also had scar tissue that had to be removed. BUT my disease was so extensive that it wasn't possible to remove it all.
"The severity of disease can only be determined at laparoscopy. Surgery is sometimes necessary to diagnose and treat the endometriosis, but in some cases, fertility treatments may be able to facilitate pregnancy without surgery. For women not trying to conceive there are many effective medical treatments for endometriosis to keep the symptoms at bay. Menopause ultimately solves the problem of endometriosis in all patients because without ovarian estrogen production the endometriosis symptoms disappear," explained Williams.
In my case, endometriosis led to infertility. I'll share more about that at a later time. I want other women to know the symptoms and share those with their friends and family. Maybe if someone would have caught this earlier, I would not have had several rounds of infertility treatment. That's why I'm sharing my story with you. I want more people to know what endometriosis is.
Facts from the Endometriosis Foundation of America:
- Women on average suffer for 10 years or more before being correctly diagnosed with endometriosis
- Endometriosis is estimated to cost the U.S. over $87 billion each year in medical costs and work productivity
- Federal research dollars for endometriosis are just $1.10 per year for each woman diagnosed
- Women with a close relative with endometriosis are five to seven times more likely to also have it, yet nearly 60 percent of women report they have never discussed their reproductive health with women in their family
- Endometriosis is the only known precursor to ovarian cancer
- 7 million women in the U.S. Have endometriosis. That's three times the population of Chicago
- In women, endometriosis is the leading cause of infertility and hysterectomies
- More than half of all women who experience infertility have symptoms
- Every five seconds, a baby girl is born in the U.S. who will have endometriosis
You can learn more from the Endometriosis Foundation of America here: https://www.endofound.org
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