Endometriosis affects an estimated 830,00 women and girls across Australia and 10 per cent of women globally.
In Australia, endometriosis is underfunded, under-researched and is a slow-to-diagnosed disease.
Endometriosis Australia, the country’s peak advocacy organisation, is endeavouring to educate the public on the painful disease and help fund life-changing research.
Endometriosis is present when tissue that is similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside this layer and in other parts of the body, causing extreme pain and infertility.
Endometriosis is a gynaecological disease, although symptoms are found anywhere in the body.
It affects one in every nine girls and women, occurring in girls as young as eight and can be present throughout a female’s entire reproductive life, and sometimes even beyond menopause.
Although women’s health is often depicted as a niche area within the health industry, it is important to remember that this is health for almost half of the population, and this attention is most welcome and well overdue.
The impacts of endometriosis are varied individually, impacting all aspects of life, with the pain and heavy menstrual bleeding often occurring every week, sometimes daily.
Infertility is common, with one-third of those with endometriosis struggling to fall pregnant.
Although this disease is as common as diabetes, there is still no known cause, prevention, or cure.
In November, Endometriosis Australia’s Board Director, Ms Maree Davenport, was joined by the Federal Government’s Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney MP at Parliament House in Canberra to welcome the government’s $16.4 million investment.
The much-needed funds will help establish targeted endometriosis and pelvic pain GP clinics around the country to improve women’s ability to access specialised and timely support in primary healthcare settings.
Minister Kearney acknowledged the tireless work of Endometriosis Australia and its Chair, former MP for Canberra, Gai Brodtmann for their powerful advocacy. Recognising the need for change in perspectives of Women’s Health, Minister Kearney acknowledged that “sufferers of endometriosis often experience delays to diagnosis and struggle to have their pain taken seriously – and it’s just not good enough”, and that this new plan “is an important step towards improving care and pain management for these women.”
Ms Davenport thanked the Minister for her personal commitment to improving the lives of people living with endometriosis.
Ms Davenport emphasised the bipartisan and non-political nature of the public policy response to this disease.
She acknowledged the Founder of Endometriosis Australia, Ms Donna Ciccia, for her unrelenting mission to raise awareness of the needs of ‘endo warriors’ through her own challenges with the disease.
Canberra resident, and Endometriosis Australia volunteer, Ms Caitlin Tough, shared her struggles living with the disease at Parliament House.
Caitlin has suffered from endometriosis and adenomyosis since the age of 11 and shared her struggles with the disease, along with the difficulty of finding a diagnosis and treatment.
She welcomed MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) subsidies to assist with the diagnosis of the disease and fertility challenges.
“Specialised pelvic pain clinics within General Practice surgeries will help girls and women to access the advice and support they need when they need it,” Caitlin said.
Endometriosis Australia also supports pain and symptom management and provides access to empirical evidence, and up-to-date advice.
They also support culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
The Federal Government has committed to funding at least one clinic in each state and territory with a minimum of sixteen clinics to be supported.
Throughout November, the Government, with the support of Primary Health Networks, will identify General Practices with strong experience in managing women’s health, endometriosis and pain management to become said specialised clinics.
As part of a wider plan to support women’s health and management of endometriosis, the federal government has also committed $25.5 million to add a new pelvic MRI scan to the Medicare Benefits Scheme, the first MRI scan listed on the scheme that investigates conditions that affect fertility.
“This is a small win in a big problem, that should offer help and some hope to more than 16,000 women each year, who are having difficulty conceiving as well as those suffering from endometriosis and other conditions affecting fertility,” Ms Davenport said.
For further information, please visit www.endometriosisaustralia.org.