Endometriosis is a big problem for women. According to the Endometriosis Association, approximately 89 million women throughout the world suffer from this condition – 6.5 million in the U.S. and Canada alone. Unfortunately, American teenagers with endometriosis can go undiagnosed for years because pediatricians overlook their condition.
What is endometriosis? It’s a condition in which uterine tissue grows outside of the uterus. This can cause lesions throughout the body, including in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, the lining of the abdomen, as well as in the bowel and bladder.
These lesions can cause extreme pain. In addition, endometriosis symptoms include inflammation, painful bowel movements, internal bleeding and even infertility.
One young woman knows these symptoms all too well. For six years, Senie Byrne, suffered from this medical condition and saw 22 doctors, none of whom offered her much relief.
Some said “it was all part of being a woman”, or that the pain was in her head. But why would close to two dozen doctors ignore a young woman’s pain for so long?
It may due to medical training doctors receive. According to Mary Lou Ballweg, president and executive director of the Endometriosis Association, “The medical teaching on endometriosis was that it’s a disease of women in their reproductive years, not adolescents.”
And because of this, Ballweg shares that girls often report being told by their physicians that they’re too young for this medical condition, or that they’re using their period to get out of school, or finally, that they’re just exaggerating their condition.
If medical training instructs that endometriosis isn’t a problem for adolescent girls, and teenagers do, in fact, suffer from endometriosis, it’s clear that there’s a discrepancy that needs to be addressed to prevent further suffering for adolescent and older women alike.