Did you know about the 38 Articles on Endometriosis in The Conversation?
There is still no cure for endometriosis, and treatments have progressed little since the condition was first recognised in the 1920s. Here are three reasons endometriosis care has been slow to improve:
1. Endometriosis is not a priority condition
Investment in research on endometriosis, and women’s reproductive health generally, remains low compared with conditions such as diabetes, which are similarly prevalent but affect both men and women.
2. Endometriosis is poorly understood
Endometriosis does not conform neatly to biomedical models of disease, meaning disease extent doesn’t always equate to symptom severity. Some menstruators and those assigned female at birth report they’ve been told by doctors that their symptoms cannot be ‘that bad’, with their accounts seen as less credible than what is detected by currently available measures. This means endometriosis can be misunderstood by health professionals.
3. Sufferers’ accounts have been dismissed for decades
Sufferers still feel disbelieved and desperate for relief from their symptoms. GPs confirm women come to them ‘ready for battle’, expecting not to be believed or made to feel that ‘it’s all in their head’, which is especially the case for people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community. Both communities that, based on existing health inequalities evidence, are more likely to have their symptoms poorly treated.
In healthcare, gender biases mean women’s pain isn’t investigated as seriously as men’s. The struggle to have endometriosis accounts believed is part of a larger, systematic dismissal of women’s experiences of their bodies.
And when health professionals don’t take women’s accounts seriously, it may mean diagnosis delays and ineffective treatments. Taking endometriosis sufferers’ accounts seriously is the linchpin to improving care.
For the long-overdue improvements to endometriosis treatment, diagnosis and care to happen, we need to believe and prioritise the words of endometriosis sufferers. Greater awareness and understanding of the condition will help.