New endometriosis action plan offers hope

Many women who live with endometriosis suffer in silence but it’s hoped a new National Action Plan, including $160,000 for endometriosis research, could make a big difference. 

Women with the often debilitating condition endometriosis say they're encouraged by the Federal Government's move to put it on the health agenda.

The Health Minister Greg Hunt announced a national plan to address the condition which includes $160,000 for the National Health and Medical Research Council, and an education and awareness campaign.

In Australia, endometriosis is as common as asthma, affecting one in ten women.

It’s a disease where tissue, the same as the lining of the womb, grows outside of the womb in other parts of the body, like on the ovaries.

Endometriosis can be incredibly painful, especially around or during a woman’s period.

Diagnosis currently takes on average eight to nine years. When left untreated, it can affect a woman’s fertility and significantly impact quality of life.

Yet there is little public acknowledgment of endometriosis and even less research into treating and managing it.

Endometriosis is too often kept quiet

“Endometriosis is something that a lot of women have issues with, but it tends to get managed quietly in general practice so it doesn’t attract much publicity. Unfortunately, periods are something that society tends not to talk about openly,” says Bupa GP Dr Tim Ross.

But, Dr Ross hopes the new National Action Plan could turn that around.

“Hopefully this will encourage women to speak up, share their stories and raise their concerns with their doctors. If endometriosis is managed early on before it becomes too bad, some complications like infertility can be avoided.”

New Endometriosis National Action Plan

When making the announcement, Mr Hunt apologised to women over the lack of action on endometriosis.

"This condition should have been better acknowledged and acted upon long ago but today we are taking action so the struggle that women face will no longer be silent or their battles private," Mr Hunt said in a statement.

"We will work with the medical community and key stakeholders to look into what gaps might be present in training, support and care."

The plan will seek to improve the treatment, understanding and awareness of endometriosis, and will be developed in collaboration with the Australian Coalition for Endometriosis, and members of the Parliamentary Friends for Endometriosis Awareness.

Endometriosis symptoms:

  • Unusually intense period pain
  • Pain on or around ovulation
  • Bowel or bladder problems
  • Heavy or irregular bleeding
  • Fatigue

Source: Endometriosis Australia

Endometriosis campaigners celebrate the news

Endometriosis awareness campaigners have welcomed the government's news.

Sylvia Freedman from EndoActive says it wouldn't have happened without the support of MP's like Nola Marino and particularly Gai Brodtmann and Nicole Flint.

"To spend years living in chronic pain with no diagnosis, being labeled drug seekers, losing jobs, enduring repeated surgeries and not being believed, suddenly here we are in Parliament House. Our voices are finally being heard," she said.

"It’s been such a long, torturous life of pain for so many women with endo and I wish those who couldn’t hold on any longer were here to celebrate with us. 

"EndoActive is over the moon and we cannot wait to continue our work with the ACE and the Government to make some history. We will not be kept quiet. Endometriosis will no longer be ignored."

Up next: Listen up ladies, pap tests are changing for the better.

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