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Why does it take doctors so long to diagnose endometriosis?

If you have endometriosis, chances are good that you have felt the effects of this medical condition for years. In fact, it has probably taken you many years to get your doctor to seriously consider your symptoms and work with you to diagnose and treat them.

Endometriosis is a painful condition that involves uterine lining developing in places other than the inside of the uterus. In some cases, it develops on or in other reproductive organs. Other times, endometriosis can affect the digestive organs.

Regardless of where the uterine lining develops, it will likely be painful, possibly even debilitating for the patient. How long does a patient have to wait on average for a diagnosis with this painful and even debilitating disease? 

Patients with endometriosis typically must wait a decade

You think that a patient presenting with severe pain would be a top priority for a physician, but doctors, even those that specialize in reproductive organs and women’s health, may downplay the seriousness of pain that women experience.

Doctors may also assume that a woman is too young to have endometriosis or that her ability to previously conceive and carry children rules out that condition. While endometriosis can affect fertility, an analysis of data about women with the condition shows that roughly 70% are fertile and capable of carrying children.

Misinformation and biases prevent women from getting the care that they need. Endometriosis often requires multiple stages of evaluation for diagnosis, and doctors may not have the patience to carefully analyze symptoms, preferring instead to brush off a patient’s complaints or simply pass them along to a specialist for further testing.

Delayed diagnosis of endometriosis can hurt female patients

Getting left to suffer in pain for an entire decade before you receive a diagnosis and can start treatment for a condition isn’t just frustrating. It can affect a woman’s interpersonal relationships, her career success and her overall health and well-being. Additionally, in some cases, the delay in diagnosis and treatment may mean the difference between a woman being able to start a family and not being able to do so.

If you suffered significant medical or personal consequences because of a delayed diagnosis or a misdiagnosis with an incorrect condition, you may have grounds to bring a medical malpractice claim against the physician or facility involved.