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March 3rd 2021

Medical Negligence

Endometriosis Awareness Month: Improvements in time to diagnosis are essential

Caroline Murgatroyd

Caroline Murgatroyd

Associate, Clinical Negligence

Endometriosis Awareness Month: Improvements in time to diagnosis are essential

1.5 million women in the UK live with endometriosis yet in my experience it is a condition that is not widely understood or discussed. This is confirmed by data that suggests the average time to diagnosis is 8 years.

1.5 million women in the UK live with endometriosis yet in my experience it is a condition that is not widely understood or discussed. This is confirmed by data that suggests the average time to diagnosis is 8 years.

Endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK. Despite this, many of the women who approach me concerned about possible delays in diagnosis, often after years of painful symptoms, had not heard of endometriosis prior to diagnosis or if they had they knew little about it. Increased awareness is required so that more can be done to recognise the symptoms of endometriosis at an earlier stage and to encourage those affected to voice their concerns about their health so that they do not suffer for many years without treatment and support.

Endometriosis is a long-term condition whereby tissue similar to that usually found in the lining of the womb, grows elsewhere in the body; usually in the pelvis around the womb, ovaries and fallopian tubes. During the menstrual cycle the endometrial tissue in the womb bleeds and leaves the body as a period but the endometrial tissue that has grown outside the womb has nowhere to go. This leads to pain, inflammation and can lead to scarring, infertility and bowel and bladder problems.

The severity of symptoms can vary. In the most severe cases it can be debilitating. Common symptoms include pelvic pain, very painful, heavy or irregular periods, pain during or after sex, difficulty getting pregnant, painful bowel movements and fatigue.

Research suggests that 62% of women would be reluctant to report these symptoms to their GP due to embarrassment or because they think such symptoms are normal. https://endometriosis-uk.org/news/it%E2%80%99s-time-end-stigma-62-women-would-put-going-doctor-symptoms-endometriosis-37694

The symptoms can be similar to other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or pelvic inflammatory disease and, consequently, even after reporting the symptoms to a doctor, many women can go years without being diagnosed and during that time suffer worsening symptoms which can have a profound impact upon their mental health.

Scans, blood tests and internal examinations are often performed but normal results do not exclude endometriosis as the underlying cause of symptoms. Laparoscopy is the only definitive way to diagnose endometriosis.

Depending upon the severity of symptoms, endometriosis can be managed with painkillers and hormone treatments or surgery may be recommended to remove endometrial tissue. Currently there is no cure. The intention of treatment is to make the condition manageable and improve the quality of life for those living with the condition.

A delay in diagnosis is not necessarily negligent but if a GP, gynaecologist or other clinician was negligent in diagnosing the condition then a claim for compensation to reflect the additional pain and suffering caused by the delay can be brought.

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