Delayed diagnosis of endometriosis is a ‘significant problem for women’, says National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Women in the UK wait an average of 7.5 years before receiving a confirmed diagnosis of the condition.
To reduce diagnostic delays, NICE has issued its first guidance to help doctors recognize the signs and symptoms of endometriosis, which include painful periods, pelvic pain, and subfertility.
Director of the Centre for Guidelines at NICE, Professor Mark Baker, said: ‘The condition is difficult to diagnose as symptoms vary and are often unspecific. However, once it has been diagnosed, there are effective treatments available that can ease women’s symptoms. This guideline will help healthcare professionals detect endometriosis early, to close the symptom to diagnosis gap and to ensure more timely treatment.’
For many people, an unconfirmed diagnosis leads to ‘unnecessary distress’ and progression of the condition, which can be more difficult to treat. NICE stress that women must be listened to, symptoms must not be discounted even when examinations such as ultrasound are negative.
Lone Hummelshoj, Secretary General of World Endometriosis Society, commented: ‘A diagnostic delay of seven to eight years is unacceptable. We wouldn’t accept that in any other disease.
‘The guideline does highlight that we don’t have the diagnostic tools. That is the truth. I suspect the overall message to physicians is to use their ears more than anything else and listen to what women are telling them. The symptoms are in many respects very clear. They are not normal if they are interfering with your day to day activities, so do seek help.’