ENDOMETRIOSIS is a debilitating disease suf-fered by six million wom-en of reproductive age in this country, and yet is often overlooked by many who think their symptoms are simply bad period pains. Its name is derived from endometrium, the name of the cells that line the inside of the uterus and which build up and shed each month during the menstrual cycle. In endometriosis, the cells are deposited in areas outside of the uterus, and are affected by the same hormones that produce the monthly cycle. Common symptoms are pelvic pain, persistent cramps, lower back pain and fatigue. If untreated, it can lead to infertility, which is when it is most often diagnosed. "This is one of the most mistreated diseases in wom-en," says Dr. Tamer Seckin, Specialist Surgeon in Endo-metriosis, who is affiliated with Lenox Hill Hospital. "It can destroy a woman's life. It is debilitating." Seckin formed the Endometriosis Foundation of America (endofound.org) to focus on education and have healthcare providers take this disease seriously.
Endometriosis is often suffered in silence and overlooked by doctors
osis is often mistaken for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or appendicitis, or glossed over by women who think they just have to "deal with it" as part of their monthly cycle. The only way to properly diagnose endometriosis is with a laparoscopic exam. Under anesthesia, an incision is made in the abdomen and a laparoscope (a tube with a light in it) checks the organs. This shows the location and extent of any growths. While this disease can be treated, it is a chronic illness with no cure. "This disease needs to be taken seriously by healthcare officials. If not, it could lead to further surgeries," says Seckin. Stephanie St. James had been suffering for at least 10 years with excruciating peri-ods that left her bedridden, constipated and with extreme lower back pain. After a lap-aroscopic exam, the surgeon found that her colon was cemented to her uterus with endometrial cells, and part of her colon had to be removed. In St. James' case, the disease returned even more aggressively three years later, leading to further surgery. How did she deal with this? "By helping other women like myself who are suffering, and letting them know that they are not alone," she says. —Pamela Stern
“This is one of the most mistreated diseases in women,” says Tamer Seckin, Specialist Surgeon in Endometriosis, who is affiliated with Lenox Hill Hospital. “It can destroy a woman’s life. It is debilitating. This disease needs to be taken seriously by healthcare officials. If not, it could lead to further surgeries.”