Endometriosis

I want to thank the health minister, Greg Hunt, and the Turnbull government. Both are determined to do more to support endometriosis sufferers around Australia. This chronic disease has been historically under-recognised amongst both the medical fraternity and the general public.

Why does endometriosis matter so much? It matters because at least 700,000 women and girls in Australia are living with this disease today. Some research indicates that it is more common than breast and prostate cancer and diabetes. Around the world, approximately 176 million women and girls are suffering from endo. Endometriosis is a chronic, progressive disease, usually resulting in severe, debilitating chronic pain and often leading to infertility. It significantly impacts on the social and economic participation and the psychosocial health of those women affected. It is taking at least seven to 10 years to diagnose. At the moment, there is no cure for endometriosis.

I want to thank the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, for his commitment to the women and girls suffering from endometriosis. He has led the way in his ministerial portfolio. He commissioned the first ever Australian national endometriosis plan, which is focused on three priority areas to help improve the lives of Australian women and girls who live with endo. The priority areas of the plan are public awareness and education, clinical management and care and research.

Clinical management and care is so important to patients who need access to individual information and support and to services that are right for them and their circumstances; services that are available and accessible.

So committed is Minister Hunt that earlier this year he announced $2.5 million from the Medical Research Future Fund for Australia’s world-class researchers to develop improved diagnosis and treatment options directly aimed at improving patient outcomes for endo sufferers. In this year’s budget, the Turnbull government committed a further $1 million to actually increase the awareness and understanding of endometriosis amongst general practitioners and other frontline health professionals—the actual coalface. This is where, early in the process, young women’s symptoms need to be taken seriously.

I want to thank all those who have helped draft the first endo plan: the endo patient advocates, the Australian Coalition for Endometriosis, the researchers, the clinicians, the patients themselves and the members of parliament who were part of it. Equally, I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the plan during the consultation process and those very courageous women who have sent me their personal stories. Even the dads and mums who talk to me constantly about their daughters’ battles with endo.
I want to thank my daughter Kylie for allowing me to share her endometriosis story. It was not easy to do for her, or for me. But what both Kylie and I want to do is to warn every other young woman to take the symptoms seriously. Please persist until you get a GP and a gynaecologist who will take you seriously. While it is too late for Kylie, it is not too late for thousands of young women in Australia and around the world. It took Kylie nearly 20 years to get that diagnosis, and what she suffered during that time is what thousands of women around Australia are suffering right now and have suffered for so many years.

The government’s ground-breaking national endo plan is due for release in July. As an Endometriosis Australia ambassador, I am very proud of this, and I thank Minister Hunt for taking me seriously when I knocked on his door and talked about how serious this issue is. I’m very, very proud of it and I thank Minister Hunt on behalf of every woman who now actually has more hope: more hope for an earlier diagnosis; more hope for better care and management and a better quality of life as a result, and not the drastic outcome that I see in my daughter and so many other women around this country.

I actually look forward to the day when our amazing researchers announce that they’ve found a cure. That’s what I’m relying on from you as researchers—that you will come up with the cure. But, ultimately, I’ll go back to where I started long ago in this. I want to warn all young women to take their symptoms seriously—please!—and I urge every single GP and gynaecologist to do exactly the same. Take these women seriously, please.