Week 5 of Blogging for Endomarch: Pick one of the goals of the march and write about how it would change the lives of endometriosis patients.
All of the goals of the Endomarch are amazing. I picked the below goal to write about:
• To educate and train members of the medical community, in order to promote early detection and improved treatment
Every time I go for my yearly gynecological visit, the doctor checks my breast for lumps and does a pap smear on me to make sure I do not have any pre-cancerous cervical lesions or early cervical cancer findings. In the past, I have had concerning breast lumps found. I was immediately referred to a breast care and surgeon specialist. I have never had an abnormal pap smear, but friends who have had concerning results were advised to have follow-up testing and were treated with appropriate care and follow up. So why when I told my gynecologist about my horribly, painful periods, she just told me I had a low pain tolerance and dismissed me?
Here is what she should have done. I am so sorry to hear you are experiencing pain. Let me ask you some questions:
1) Do you have pain any other time in your cycle or is it mainly during your period? I would have told her, “I also have tremendous pain during ovulation.”
2) Do you have any digestive symptoms, like constipation or diarrhea? Do you notice these symptoms to get worse during certain time of your cycle? I would have told her. “Yes, I have horrible diarrhea at the onset of and during my period.”
3) Do you have any urinary symptoms such as frequent urination or frequent UTI’s especially during different times in your cycle? I would have told her, “I suffer from both of these things.”
4) Do you have pain during intercourse? When I first started having my symptoms I wasn’t having intercourse, but I would have told her, “When you put the speculum in my vagina, I want to cry out in pain.”
5) Do you find that certain foods trigger your symptoms or make them worse? I would have said, “Yes, gluten and dairy often make me feel worse.”
6) Do you have any back or leg pain related to your cycle? I would have said no at the time, but I later developed this pain.
7) Do you feel more fatigued during your period or other times in your cycle? I would have told her, “Yes I feel extremely fatigued right before and during the first few days of my cycle.”
8) Does any over the counter pain medicines bring you any relief? I would have said, “No, no they do not.”
9) Does anyone is your family have a history of endometriosis or any notable gynecological occurrences? I would have said, “Yes, my mom had very painful periods and miscarriages.”
10) I then wish my doctor would have said, “Based on your painful periods alone, I would have sent you to get checked out by an excision specialist for more testing. But you seem to have many symptoms of endometriosis. I am going to refer you to a specialist to get further testing if that’s okay?”
THESE are the conversations that need to be occurring in the offices of gynecologists and reproductive endocrinologists everywhere. This conversation also needs to start happening in the offices of gastroenterologists, immunologists, neurologists and family practitioners. This especially needs to be going on in pediatric offices when young teenagers are first getting their periods and having pain.
Instead, my doctor shamed me into thinking I was less of a woman because I couldn’t handle my painful periods because I had a low pain tolerance. Instead my gastroenterologist told me I had irritable bowel syndrome caused by anxiety. Wouldn’t you be anxious too if you were worried about having diarrhea all the time?
It is time to wake up medical community and start recognizing endometriosis and helping women with this invisible illness, the 1 out ten.