One in ten women around the world have endometriosis, but it was only this week that their pain was recognised by the Australian government.
Australian Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced on Tuesday that the Federal Government will now develop the first National Action Plan for endometriosis.
He described the move as ‘long overdue’, and apologised to sufferers that it had taken the Parliament so long to give them recognition.
Radio host Mel Greig, who suffers from the condition, told Daily Mail Australia she cried tears of joy at the news.
‘Endometriosis sufferers are finally being acknowledged on the level that we need,’ she said.
Greig had suffered with severe period pain from a young age, but it wasn’t until she was 23 that it became ‘unimaginable’.
‘Going to the toilet felt like a knife stabbing me over and over again,’ she said.
‘It’s like barbed wire being ripped through you. It’s unbearable and excruciating.’
Greig’s doctor told her that a simple pill would fix her, but it only masked the pain. She eventually would have to get major surgery and a bowel resection.
Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue meant to line the uterus grows outside of it instead. It has long been called a ‘silent epidemic’.
Hunt revealed that the National Action Plan will target education and awareness, as well as research and funding, for endometriosis.
The government has begun by giving the University of Queensland an initial $160,000 grant for endometriosis diagnosis and treatment research.
Greig, an ambassador for Endometriosis Australia, hopes the National Action Plan will give ‘vital’ education to young girls.
‘When I was 16 no one understood where my pain was coming from and I just had to deal with it,’ she said.
‘They need to understand what’s normal and what’s not, and to get help at a young age, especially given the fact it takes seven years to diagnose on average.’
Endometriosis Australian director and co-founder Donna Ciccia likewise hopes the plan will give validation to sufferers everywhere.
‘After years of being told “It’s all in your head, it’s just period pain, it’s normal, you’re being dramatic”, finally someone is listening and taking it on board and helping to create real change,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Lack of awareness in our community has led to late diagnosis, missed treatment opportunities, loss of jobs, lost productivity, loss of daily functioning, and even suicide and death.’
Ciccia hopes the action plan will deliver a federally-funded awareness campaign, a national education plan, increased research funding, and clinical standards of care for endometriosis patients.
Hunt’s announcement came just three weeks after a Change.org petition was launched demanding endometriosis be recognised by the Australian government.
The petitition, launched by endometriosis sufferer Karlie Wilkinson, received more than 111,000 signatures.
Wilkinson detailed her long struggle with the condition, describing it as ‘morning sickness without the baby’.
‘It is surgery every six to 12 months, being told you’ll never have children at the age of 19, and morning painkillers just to get through the day,’ she wrote.
‘It is torture and it is real. These symptoms persist every single day of our lives, it is our “normal””.
Ciccia hopes the government’s decision will set an international precedent that can finally end the stigma surrounding the condition.
‘Women’s menstruation has been a taboo topic both socially and culturally,’ she said. ‘Most people don’t even know endometriosis exists.’
‘Raising awareness across Australia is crucial to helping to address the burden that endometriosis places on our individuals, families, schools and workplaces.’
‘It was only about 30 years ago that diseases like breast cancer were just not discussed. It is time now to end the silence on endometriosis.’