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Why Endometriosis is Underdiagnosed in Women

A physician explains how many women don't even know they have the disease and what can be done to help with detection.

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Research shows more than 11% of women in the United States suffer from the condition, but that number likely isn’t accurate. Image for illustration purposes
Research shows more than 11% of women in the United States suffer from the condition, but that number likely isn’t accurate. Image for illustration purposes
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CLEVELAND CLINIC – March is Endometriosis Awareness Month.

Research shows more than 11% of women in the United States suffer from the condition, but that number likely isn’t accurate.  

According to Megan Billow, DO, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology with Cleveland Clinic, said some women may not even realize they have it.  
  
“It is a condition that affects women of all ages. Most commonly we do diagnose it during the reproductive age time,” said Dr. Billow. “However, any time a period is really causing significant pain, patients should be aware that pain with periods that are affecting or impacting their quality of life is not normal.”  
  
For those unfamiliar, endometriosis is a chronic, inflammatory condition that causes tissue similar to the lining of a woman’s uterus, to grow in other places within the pelvis and the abdomen. 

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Symptoms can vary, but typically include painful periods, pelvic pain and pain with intercourse.
 
A woman may also experience fertility issues.  

Dr. Billow said endometriosis can be challenging to diagnose, which is why they normally recommend exploratory surgery. 
 
“Surgery is very helpful for not only diagnosing but treating the disease,” she said. “Treatment entails excising, or cutting out, removing all of the disease. The pathologist will then look at the tissue under a microscope and give us a final diagnosis.” 
  
There is currently no cure for endometriosis, but medications and surgery can help control symptoms. 

And while it is unclear what causes the disorder, genetics do play a role.  

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