The plight of women experiencing endometriosis was the focus in Parliament this week, highlighted by Member for Calwell Maria Vamvakinou MP in a bid to raise public awareness about those suffering in silence.
The disease, which primarily affects reproductive organs, involves tissues similar to the lining of the endometrium found in abnormal sites around the body, often causing the sufferer excruciating pain to the point of debilitation.
The problem is more widespread than some might think, with one in 10 women in Australia affected by the disease in some way, and given that it can only be diagnosed via a laparoscopy or biopsy often goes undiagnosed for some time which can lead to infertility and other serious complications.
“For all too long endometriosis has been dismissed by GPs and doctors in Australia … just as heavy, painful period pain. When women are eventually diagnosed or seek additional health attention in relation to endometriosis it often follows a long and arduous road of misdiagnosis, pain, anxiety and, more often than not, silent suffering,” Ms Vamvakinou said.
With a large number of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) women in her constituency, the MP’s speech predominantly focused on the experiences of immigrant women, who, as a result of cultural and religious perceptions, often find it difficult enough to find the courage to speak about their symptoms let alone seek medical advice.
“I’m very concerned for those who are unaware or too embarrassed to seek help from their local GPs and, more importantly, I’m concerned for those women who don’t feel their menstrual health is important enough to seek medical advice. So I am always grateful for the great work that women in my electorate do to help each other on a raft of issues, endometriosis awareness being one of them,” she said.
Ms Vamvakinou made special mention of Dr Umber Rind, who established a medical practice in the MP’s electorate with a strong focus on women’s health so that refugee and migrant women in particular would have a safe space to discuss their issues.
In concluding her speech, the Greek Australian also highlighted the work of another young CALD woman working to raise awareness, Neos Kosmos’ own editorial director of the English edition, Nelly Skoufatoglou. Through her own experiences and struggles with endometriosis, Skoufatoglou has contributed to greater public awareness surrounding endometriosis via social media, and her work as a journalist, Ms Vamvakinou highlighting an article published earlier this year.
“She talks about the effect this has had on her day-to-day life: the pain, the bleeding, the exhaustion, anxiety, tests, hormones, antibiotics, frustration, failed relationship after failed relationship, and her secret fear of losing her sanity. This is a courageous young woman who knows that the only way to change perceptions about this silent disease is by going public with them,” Ms Vamvakinou said.
“Raising awareness is important because there is no other way to encourage women to seek advice and to speak up about this very silent condition.”
To find out more about endometriosis, visit endometriosisaustralia.org/