Problems with the diagnosis of endometriosis

Brenna Gosse stands for a photo in Medicine Hat on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. Gosse has struggled with endometriosis, a disorder that affects the uterus. Endometriosis allows tissue to grow on the outside of the uterus that can attach itself to surrounding organs. Gosse had been to multiple doctors in Alberta before deciding to seek surgical treatment in the United States. (Photo by Tiana Lang/The Press)

Many Canadian patients face difficulties receiving diagnoses regarding female-related health conditions like endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a condition that causes tissue to grow on the outside of the uterus. Like a menstrual cycle that causes the tissue to shed each month, the tissue that grows outside sheds too.

People affected by endometriosis often deal with pelvic pain, painful menstrual cramps, heavy or prolonged menstrual cycles, nausea, bloating, migraines, back pain, pain during intercourse, and infertility.

EndoAct Canada is an organization made to help improve the lives of people with endometriosis, co-founded by The Endometriosis Network Canada, Canada’s only registered charity for raising awareness of endometriosis.

According to EndoAct Canada, the average delay to receive a diagnosis is 5.4 years, and for some, it can take up to 20 years.

Confirming a diagnosis for endometriosis typically requires a surgical procedure called a laparoscopy, which is a type of exploratory surgery.

For Brenna Gosse, 18, it took her seven years to receive a diagnosis after being told by her doctors that she was too young to have endometriosis.

Gosse was experiencing symptoms such as a painful menstrual cycle, bladder pain, extreme fatigue, and nausea.

“I waited a year to see the gynecologist, and she told me it was impossible for me to have endometriosis and to continue taking birth control,” Gosse said.

Gosse said she made several visits to the emergency room in her hometown of Medicine Hat, Alta., while even traveling to an ER in Calgary. Each visit was unsuccessful in knowing what Gosse’s health concerns were.

Gosse was able to see gynecologists in Calgary, but “they told me I was too young for surgery,” Gosse said.

After Gosse saw four different gynecologists and visited the ER multiple times, she decided to travel to the U.S. to the Center for Endometriosis Care.

Her surgeon, Dr. Ken Senirvo, performed a laparoscopy and lesion removal surgery. That is when Gosse received her diagnosis of endometriosis.

“It’s just unfortunate that we can’t get that care in Canada,” Gosse said.

Dr. Madison Young, a family physician who works at Maud Medical Clinic, a women’s clinic that opened in 2021, said it’s all how the message is delivered to the patient.

Physician Dr. Madison Young from Maud Medical Clinic located in Calgary via Zoom call on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. Dr. Young works at Maud Medical Clinic that caters to women’s health needs. (Photo by Tiana Lang/The Press)

“I know as a patient how important it is to have a diagnosis,” Dr. Young said. “If I can diagnose you, that’s great, but even if I can’t, I’ll still continue to help you.”

How physicians deliver medical news to the patient is something Dr. Young believes is essential to the patient.

“Saying to them that their ultrasound was normal to us means we’ve ruled out some sinister things, which makes us happy,” Dr. Young said. “But what a patient can sometimes hear is, well, I’m not normal; I’m not feeling normal.”

Dr. Young said that acknowledging the patients’ feelings and empathizing with them is an important aspect of being a physician.

“We have to make sure as clinicians that we’re satisfying our medical-legal needs and checkboxes, but still not forgetting that even if we can’t find something wrong, that there is a patient sitting in front of us suffering,” Dr. Young said.

About Tiana Lang 3 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Tiana Lang is working as a writer for The Press during the 2021-22 academic year.