March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. Endometriosis is a condition that causes tissue similar to the lining of a woman’s uterus to grow in other places, like the abdomen and pelvic area. It can also cause painful periods and fertility issues.
It can be debilitating, especially because it can take years to get a diagnosis.
“Still in the United States, the diagnostic delay for this disease is approximately seven to ten years. So patients do suffer for a very long time before they are diagnosed," Dr. Miguel Luna Russo, Cleveland Clinic's Director of Endometriosis, said.
He there are a couple of reasons why a woman may not know she has endometriosis: they may think the cramps they’re experiencing during menstruation are normal, or surgery may be needed to confirm their diagnosis. But the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology said that's no longer the gold standard. Many doctors are encouraged to use clinical history, physical exams, MRIs and ultrasounds to diagnose endometriosis. Dr. Luna said there’s also some research being done to identify possible biomarkers in the blood.
“There’s a lot of research being performed, mostly by startups and health tech companies that are looking at non-invasive markers in the blood, to diagnose endometriosis. Those are actually a good idea because we can target those markers with drugs down the line in the future," Dr. Luna said.
There are multiple treatment options for endometriosis, like surgery and medications. Dr. Luna encourages anyone who's dealing with pain and discomfort to talk to their doctor.