Endometriosis: The Jamaican Situation

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a disease that affects women and happens when tissue similar to that which grows in the lining of the womb shows up in other areas of the body, primarily in the abdomen. Dr Michael Abrahams, in his Gleaner article, What on Earth is Endometriosis?, explains that it is:

“a condition where fragments of the internal lining of the uterus (the endometrium) deposit and grow outside the organ, attaching to it and other internal viscera, such as the Fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder and bowel. Less commonly, the tissue may be found in the abdominal wall, the umbilicus or even the lungs.”

Photo from The Health Site (www.thehealthsite.com)

Endometriosis is one of the most complex and least understood diseases in the medical field. The Nazhat family, a family of doctors who have done extensive study on the disease – have called the world’s treatment of endometriosis over the years “the most colossal mass misdiagnosis in human history”. This is because early doctors used to treat women who complained of the symptoms of endometriosis as “mad, immoral, or imagining it all”.

Severe pain is the main symptom of endometriosis. This usually occurs during a girl or woman’s period, while passing urine, or while passing stool.  However, it is possible for a girl or woman to have severe endometriosis and experience no pain. Other symptoms include spotting before period, irregular and heavy periods, blood in the stool during period, infertility, or difficulty becoming pregnant.

Facts about endometriosis

  • A yellow ribbon is worn to show awareness.
  • It affects one in 10 girls and women globally.
  • It affects 10-15% of women during their reproductive years.
  • Over 100,000 women in Jamaica are affected by the disease.
  • It is among the top three causes of infertility.
  • As many as 30-50% of infertile women worldwide may have endometriosis.
  • It is a big contributor to gynaecological surgeries every year.
  • It takes an average 8 to 10 years to be properly diagnosed.
  • Many people who have the disease are not aware of it.
  • The condition can only be diagnosed definitively following surgery.

When is Endometriosis Awareness Week/Month?

In 2014, Governor General Sir Patrick Allen in 2014 declared that the month of March would be observed as Endometriosis Awareness Month annually in Jamaica.  He took this decision after a petition by the BASE Foundation. Globally, Endometriosis Awareness Week is observed in the second week of March.

What local organisations focus on this issue?

The BASE (Better Awareness and Support for Endometriosis) Foundation has been in existence since 2013, and has taken up the charge of raising awareness of the disease and providing support for survivors of endometriosis. Founded by Shauna Fuller Clarke, who suffered a lung collapse as a result of endometriosis, the group was successful in lobbying for the declaration of March as Endometriosis Awareness Month in Jamaica.

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