What to talk about with your GP if you think you might have endometriosis.
Commonly causing fertility problems and pain, endometriosis affects around 1 in 10 reproductive age women. For most sufferers, help starts with a GP visit.
Chances are, if you suspect you have endometriosis, it’s your pain that is driving that suspicion. For the majority of sufferers, endo pain is severe and comes in cycles, occurring most commonly during menstruation. It can also cause pain at other times, such as during sex, when passing a bowel motion, and when ovulating. Some women experience no symptoms, with endo only making itself known when they try to have children. No matter your symptoms, it’s important to get on top of endo promptly, as like most diseases, it can progress over time.
Preparing for an initial GP visit
The most helpful thing you can bring along to a GP visit is data. Record when your pain happens, for how long, and how severe it is. Keep track of your periods so you can see if it occurs most commonly at these times. However, if you don’t have this information but are finding your pelvic pain is untenable, don’t wait and suffer – even without this info, your GP will be able to investigate the source of the pain through some questioning and by using a scan.
Questions you may be asked to check risk factors for endometriosis.
- When in your cycle do you experience pain?
- Does it happen at other times?
- How would you describe the pain? Does it ache, sting, stab, etc…
- Where on your body does it occur?
- Is there a history of endo in your family? (This can be a risk factor so it may be helpful to ask around the women in your whanau).
- Have you ever been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, uterine or reproductive tract abnormalities, or any painful bladder syndromes? (These can be co-occurrences).
- How long does your period last? (Short cycles or long periods can be risk factors).
- What is your weight and height? (A high BMI can be a risk factor).
How can I check my own risk factor?
Accessing RATE (Raising Awareness Tool for Endometriosis) is a great place to start for those who suspect they may have endometriosis. Developed by a team of experts in association with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the tool works through questions similar to the above, about pain levels, frequency and location of pain, and other symptoms.
What will happen next?
If your GP suspects endo, they will likely refer you to a gynecologist. Many, like our own Dr Ange Beard, are experts in diagnosing and treating endometriosis, so you will be in the best possible hands. Your gynecologist will likely order a laparoscopy or MRI. This will show severe disease but early-stage disease may not be visible, even though there can still be severe pain.
To treat the pain, your gynecologist will likely suggest a hormone treatment, such as the IUD or pill, which helps by suppressing periods. Surgery will be offered to remove ovarian cysts, which can be the cause of fertility issues. Cysts can also occur in other parts of the body surrounding the ovaries, and these can also be surgically removed.
Your gynecologist may also refer you to a pelvic floor physiotherapist and a chronic pain specialist to help reduce pain, and a dietician, who will recommend a diet that helps to reduce inflammation.
The journey to diagnosis
No matter whether you start with the RATE tool, a GP visit or come straight to our clinic to investigate your pain and find solutions, it is imperative that you don’t suffer in silence. Give us a call today to book an appointment.