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Earlier this month the BBC released the results of its survey of more than 13,500 women with endometriosis.
The news agency spoke to Jaimee Rae McCormack, 29, an online endometriosis activist who has networked with many other women who have the condition.
"Some of them have gone due to taking their own lives because they just couldn't cope anymore and didn't have the right support," McCormack told the BBC. "It's really heart-breaking."
More than a million American women are estimated to have endometriosis, according to MedicineNet author Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, although the rate may be as high as 18% of all women.
The pelvic disease occurs when cells similar to the ones that form inside of the uterus begin to grow outside the uterus, Dr. Stöppler said. It can lead to infertility, and causes a variety of other symptoms:
- Pain (usually pelvic) that usually occurs just before menstruation and lessens after menstruation
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Cramping during intercourse
- Cramping or pain during bowel movements or urination
- Pain with pelvic examinations
Other symptoms that can be related to endometriosis include:
- lower abdominal pain,
- diarrhea and/or constipation,
- low back pain,
- chronic fatigue,
- irregular or heavy menstruation,
- painful urination, or
- bloody urine (particularly during menstruation).
Endometriosis may also raise a woman's risk of ovarian cancer, Dr. Stöppler said. The disease can be treated with medications and/or surgery, although symptoms may resolve without treatment.
"Endometriosis is most commonly a disease of the reproductive years, and symptoms usually go away after a woman reaches menopause," wrote Dr. Stöppler. "Because the cause of endometriosis is poorly understood, there are no known ways to prevent its development."