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Endometriosis: the tragedy of delayed diagnosis
ENDOMETRIOSIS: THE TRAGEDY OF DELAYED DIAGNOSIS
It doesn't seem possible to have a progressive, chronic condition and not be aware of it, but with endometriosis this can happen. A sufferer may consult an unsympathetic doctor or a practitioner inexperienced in diagnosing or treating the disease. For her pain, she may be dismissed—told that her symptoms are all in her head or that they are blown out of proportion. The chief complaint—pelvic pain—is however, not psychosomatic at all, but a very reef characteristic sign of the disease.
Victims of endometriosis experience an unnatural biological phenomenon: the misplacement of endometrial cells that normally line the uterine cavity. These cells are pushed backward from the uterus during menstruation and run wild, implanting themselves on pelvic organs, where they not only grow but proliferate. Eventually, clumps of endometrial1 masses spread more and more with each menstrual cycle, contorting organs and making normal functioning difficult or impossible. This invasive process results in severe cramps, pain, and, if the ovaries and fallopian tubes are gravely involved, sterility.
Along the way, women who suffer from endometriosis often are subjected repeatedly to unnecessary surgery, endure years of drug therapy that may not be of much benefit or can even worsen the disorder, develop other stress-related problems from unrelenting abdominal discomfort, and relinquish chances for fulfilling personal and professional goals because of ill health.
Dr. Donald Chatman, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center in Chicago, specializes m treating women with pelvic pain. He, too, is concerned that a problem exists in medical circles when it comes to understanding this disease. "There is no question that endometriosis is often misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed,'' he told. "Primarily, I think physicians are not aware of the potential presence of the disease. For example, a mother calls her doctor and says, 'My teenage daughter has recurrent menstrual pain.' He might well say, 'That's a woman's curse,' and prescribe a drug like ibuprofen or Motrin and assume the girl's pain is of no consequence. Similarly, a woman in her thirties with severe menstrual pain can race the same kind of put-off response when she sees her gynecologist.
Misdiagnosis is predictable when physicians don't have the heightened awareness needed to make the correct diagnosis. In fact, a study was done on pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a sexually transmitted disorder, in which it was found chat the error rate of diagnosis was 35 to 50 percent! Many of those women actually had endometriosis, not PID.
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