March is Endometriosis Awareness Month
Q & A with Dr. James Pate
James Pate, MD
Dr. Pate is a board certified obstetrician-gynecologist who specializes in minimally invasive surgery, LGBT health, and family planning.
There is a big misconception out there that having painful periods is just par for the course as a woman. And while “that time of the month” isn’t pleasant—cue the cramps, bloating, and mood swings, you should have a deeper conversation with your doctor if you feel there’s something more going on.
Talking with Dr. Pate, board certified gynecologist at OB/GYN Associates of Attleboro, we’ve asked him to provide some insight into this condition that affects nearly 10% of women who are in their reproductive years.
Q. People may have heard of the term, endometriosis, but what exactly is the condition?
A. Endometriosis is when the tissue that lines the uterus, the endometrium, grows outside of the uterus and on organs such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. This tissue continues to build up and break down causing small amounts of bleeding that can get trapped. This causes pain, inflammation and can result in scar tissue.
Q. Statistics indicate that it can take almost 10 years for a women to receive a diagnosis of endometriosis. Why do you think that is?
A. Simply put, the symptoms of the disorder may cause women to think that what they are experiencing is normal during their reproductive years. They don’t always realize that it could be something more. Pelvic pain, pain during the menstrual cycle, ovarian cysts, back pain and difficulty becoming pregnant are all symptoms of the disorder. You can see how easy it may be for women to brush it off as “normal issues.” Conversely, there are women who do not experience any of the above symptoms, but have the condition.
Q. If a woman suspects she has endometriosis, what are your recommendations to her?
A. If a woman is experiencing pain, I would encourage her to talk with her doctor. Pain is not normal. As health care providers, we want to help our patients, but we need to know what they are experiencing in order to diagnosis and treat. As a women, you need to be comfortable with your provider. As OB/GYNs we understand that women have unique health care issues, some of which may feel too embarrassing to talk about or evoke feelings of fear.
It’s important to know that endometriosis, if undiagnosed can cause damage to the reproductive organs, which makes it all that more important to discuss symptoms if you suspect you may have it.
Q. How is the disorder diagnosed? What does treatment look like?
A. Based upon symptoms, your gynecologist will likely conduct a pelvic exam and an ultrasound to identify if there are any physical cues for the disorder such as cysts. A laparoscopy, minimally invasive surgery, is the only way to definitively diagnose the condition, however, diagnosis is often made and treatment given without surgery. There is no cure for endometriosis at this time, but we can work to manage symptoms. Options for treatment are based on the individual and decisions made with a doctor, but may include hormone therapy, pain management, and surgery.