The ‘E’ word many women dread

The federal government has injected an added $10 million into endometriosis research and education as part of the National Women’s Health Strategy.

Endometriosis is a chronic gynaecological illness in women which occurs when tissue usually found in the lining of the uterus is found outside of the uterus.

The incurable disease affects one in 10 women with over 700,000 women in Australia living with the disease.

An example of tissue located outside of the uterus. Image via: Living Holistic Health.

The boost for education and research into the disease comes after the Federal government’s launch in 2018 of the National Action Plan for Endometriosis.

The Action Plan provided $4.7 million into awareness and education, research and clinical management and care.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the research will provide a way for the development of a possible cure.

“The government funding will be allocated for research that leads to non-invasive diagnostic testing and a better understanding of the causes and underlying factors that lead to the development and progression of the disease,” he said.

Endometriosis Australia Director Donna Ciccia said the funding announcement was a major step for those living with endometriosis and took the total funding for the disease to almost $15 million in the past 12 months.

“This silent epidemic is now getting the attention it deserves,” she said.

According to Endometriosis Australia, one way to diagnose and treat endometriosis is through a laparoscopy where a telescope is put through the belly button of the female.

The surgeon assesses the organs in the abdomen and pelvis and removes tissue thought to contain endometriosis.

Other methods for easing the pain include pain relieving medications, hormonal treatments such as the contraceptive pill or progestogens or alternative treatments such as physiotherapy, psychology, acupuncture or naturopathy.

Ms Ciccia said that before finding a cure for endometriosis, the cause of the disease had to be known and funding research was one of the only ways that would be able to provide that answer.

“Endometriosis is a multifaceted disease and there is unfortunately not one treatment that fixes everything for all patients,” she said.

Jessica Beaumont, 19, has been living with endometriosis since she was eleven.

She said her symptoms included heavy periods, chronic fatigue, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome and she had been recommended a number of treatment methods.

Jessica Beaumont after her laparoscopic surgeries. Photo: Jessica Beaumont.

“At the moment, I am on the contraceptive pill to mask my period so I skip three periods in a row. Every time you get your period, the endometriosis grows,” she said.

“I have had three laparoscopic surgeries in the last three years to remove the endometriosis as an attempt to lower my symptoms.”

Ms Beaumont said a pain medication that was specific for the treatment of endometriosis would help in her pain management and also in treating the side effects of endometriosis.  

“The problem is they haven’t worked out a way to manage everyone’s pain because everyone is so different. Everyone reacts differently,” she said.

“Research is the most important part.”

Ms Ciccia agreed and said that research can “give us hope”.

Jessica Beaumont discusses her endometriosis journey.

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