The Silence & Stigma of Period Pain: Fibroids, Endometriosis Can Destroy a Woman’s Life
IGNORING CHRONIC PAIN FROM GYN CONDITIONS DEEMED UNETHICAL: BEYOND THE STIRRUPS PART 3
The modern battle cry to demand women’s voices not only be heard, but taken seriously, faces a challenge within the healthcare system that can, to this day, erode a woman’s trust in herself. There is a stigma of period pain that can be harmful to a woman’s reproductive system.
Those with whom our health is entrusted are not always knowledgeable about complex GYN conditions that cause period pain, and are often dismissive towards their female patients. Not being taken seriously can result in delays treating complex GYN conditions like endometriosis or fibroids that put a woman’s health at risk. These conditions can cause excruciating pain, heavy bleeding that can lead to anemia, and infertility that may or may not be treatable.
In Journal of Medical Ethics, Cheryl MacPherson outlines how medical professionals’ lack of modern knowledge and undertreating pain violates ethical principles. Advancements in diagnostics, treatment and pain management have evolved rapidly in the last decade, providing medical professionals with the tools to address the underlying causes of pelvic pain. Experts in minimally invasive endometriosis excision and fibroid removal at The Center for Innovative GYN Care are leading the way to changing entrenched attitudes about women who present with complex GYN conditions, beginning with advocating for earlier minimally invasive surgical intervention.
ENDOMETRIOSIS AND FIBROIDS: COMPLEX GYN CONDITIONS
“Over the years, we have seen countless patients who were told their endometriosis pain was just in their head, so that when they come to see us, it’s been years of being under or misdiagnosed,” said Natalya Danilyants, MD. “Endometriosis can cause a great deal of damage to the reproductive system. If a patient is properly diagnosed early, and treated with laparoscopic excision, the disease and the resulting pain can be managed, while monitoring to minimize the risks of infertility.”
Fifty percent of women with endometriosis see at least five health care professionals before receiving a diagnosis and/or referral. It is estimated that a woman with endometriosis will have to wait 7-9 years for a proper diagnosis of the disease, as it is not visible on any type of diagnostic imaging. During that time, the inflammation caused each month can lead to scarring in the pelvic cavity, which can in turn lead to infertility, chronic pain or difficulty going to the bathroom. While laparoscopy is needed to confirm an endometriosis diagnosis, initial symptoms can indicate there is a problem, and with a proper patient health history, diagnostic laparoscopy
Fibroids affect approximately 80 percent of women by age 50, yet the common practice by OBGYNs and Primary Care Physicians is simply to watch them and wait on treatment. Waiting to remove a small fibroid can lead to a much more complicated removal procedure down the line, and waiting to remove a large fibroid can result in irreversible damage to the uterus, putting fertility at risk.
“Uterine fibroids can be unpredictable,” said Paul MacKoul, MD. “They can continue to grow, and in some cases grow very large, very fast. Removing them when they are smaller can help preserve a woman’s fertility, but will also result in a faster recovery for the patient. The larger the fibroid, the more damage to the uterus. Our LAAM fibroid removal is a state-of-the-art technique that has helped thousands of women with very small to very large fibroids, but too many doctors are telling their patients with fibroids to wait and see if the shrink, so that by the time they come to us, so often, they are huge. We all need to think more about what the patient is experiencing with these conditions, and the risks they face with surgery when their condition is allowed to go unchecked.”