Educational opportunities for students are at the heart of the quest to solve this misunderstood public health crisis.
BY CAMRAN NEZHAT, MD, AND BARBARA PAGE
For decades, our group has been working to increase awareness around endometriosis as not just a reproductive tract disease, but a whole-body disease that can affect all organs. Endometriosis continues to be dramatically misunderstood and misdiagnosed, even as it affects around 200 million women and adolescents worldwide. It has long been associated with a delayed diagnosis and a lack of treatment or even inappropriate therapy.
The wrenching stories of the countless women and girls in extreme physical and emotional pain due to endometriosis have given voice to our mission. In 2013, we ultimately founded Worldwide Endometriosis March (EndoMarch) as a grassroots global movement and a call to action to improve the quality of medical care for the millions of women and girls suffering from this incurable chronic disease. In addition to raising awareness about what is largely an invisible epidemic, we seek to address the unmet needs in its diagnosis and treatment by developing better technologies.
Many of the 1 in 10 women and adolescents with endometriosis suffer for years without a diagnosis. The growth of endometrial-like tissue outside of the pelvic cavity can cause symptoms such as excruciating chronic pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, increased menstrual bleeding, infertility, and organ dysfunction. These symptoms have a dramatic impact on women’s quality of life, interfering with their normal daily activities and ability to have children.
EDUCATE TOWARD A CURE
Although we have been encouraged by an increase in awareness around endometriosis during the past several years, there remains a major shortage of specialists with expertise in the field. To help turn that around, we want to challenge pre-med and public health undergraduates to participate in finding a cure for endo. To move toward that goal, The Nezhat Family Foundation and EndoMarch recently held the inaugural Endometriosis Fellowship & Course, sponsored by Lumenis. We presented an intensive classroom curriculum through lectures and gave the 30 participants hands-on experience with the Lumenis CO2 laser.
The development of minimally invasive procedures is crucial for this disease, and Lumenis has laser technology that enables delicate and precise endometriotic cell removal, while preserving healthy tissue. By providing free educational opportunities centered around endometriosis, we can ultimately empower the next generation of students seeking to take on the challenge of improving treatment options for the millions of women and adolescents who are suffering from the condition.
We know that for at least the past 4,000 years, the mass misdiagnosis of endometriosis has left a disgraceful legacy. We are hopeful, however, that the medical community is beginning to heed the wakeup call, as the time to steer ourselves toward the long-elusive cure is long overdue.
Camran Nezhat, MD, is the president and founder of the Nezhat Family Foundation and Worldwide EndoMarch. Barbara Page is the cofounder of Worldwide EndoMarch.
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