Endometriosis action plan to help diagnose and manage patients

Amanda Lyons

12/12/2017 1:28:47 PM

The Federal Government’s newly announced National Action Plan for Endometriosis will focus on improving the lives of women who live with this painful and often misunderstood disorder.

Endometriosis has been found to affect one in 10 Australian women of reproductive age.
Endometriosis has been found to affect one in 10 Australian women of reproductive age.

Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue is found outside of the uterus. During the menstrual cycle, the tissue that lines the uterus breaks down, bleeds and leaves the body. But the blood from the extra tissue outside the uterus remains inside, causing inflammation and often significant pain.
Although endometriosis is a relatively common condition in Australia, affecting one in 10 women of reproductive age, the path to diagnosis is often a long one.
‘It can take an average seven years to diagnose endometriosis,’ Dr Vanda Fortunato, Chief Executive Officer of national not-for-profit organisation Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, told newsGP. ‘Women with endometriosis can have painful and heavy periods, chronic pain, painful sex and issues with fertility.
‘Delays in diagnosis can also mean symptoms get worse over time, with a significant impact on a woman’s quality of life.’

There are no simple tests to confirm endometriosis, which often can only be identified via laparoscopy conducted by a gynaecologist. Given GPs are the first healthcare contact for a majority of women, they are vital in the process of referral for diagnosis; however, recognising signs of endometriosis is not always easy in general practice, especially as they can present outside the time of menstruation.
‘For example, when a woman presents with long-standing abdominal or pelvic pain that may be the result of scarring or other consequences of endometriosis. GPs may not consider the condition as the primary diagnosis,’ Professor Danielle Mazza, Head of the Department of General Practice at Monash University and author of Women’s health in general practice, told newsGP.
Despite the difficulties in identifying the condition, Professor Mazza believes there has been significant improvement in recent years.
‘GPs are very good at looking at the whole person and having a comprehensive overview of patient care and interrelated factors,’ she said. ‘We are very well placed to consider, diagnose and manage women’s gynaecological issues within that kind of comprehensive approach.’
The National Action Plan, which will be developed in collaboration with the Australian Coalition for Endometriosis and members of the Parliamentary Friends for Endometriosis Awareness, will also assist GPs to provide quality care for women with endometriosis by addressing gaps in medical training, support and care.
The plan will also invest in targeted research under the Department of Health’s Medical Research Future Fund in order to explore and discover new options for diagnosis, treatment and understanding of endometriosis.

This article was updated to include Professor Mazza’s quotes.

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Anna   29/07/2018 1:17:17 PM

In my experience, a "delay in diagnosis" can be because initial laparoscopy can look normal.