When my two sisters and I were dealing with the effects of endometriosis in the early 1980s, not much research had been done on the disease. Years later, specialists determined that there is some kind of genetic connection. But the three of us already knew that.
Endometriosis is the growth of the kind of tissue that lines the uterus in a woman, in preparation for a fertilized egg. If no egg is fertilized, the tissue breaks down and passes out of the body by way of menstruation. However, the endometrial tissue, through some mechanism still not known, can grow outside of the uterus, adhering to various organs and causing damage and infertility. It bleeds during menstruation, causing pain and further growth.
My oldest sister was diagnosed first. That was in 1980. Although she only had a little bit of pain, her gynecologist detected some kind of growths through her regular yearly exam. He ordered tests, which confirmed his suspicion of extraneous growths of assorted sizes. But he had no idea what they were.
She underwent surgery to remove the growths and further determine exactly what they were. Her doctor removed a large amount of endometrial tissue that had formed adhesions in her abdomen. He also was forced to remove one of her ovaries because it was so infiltrated with the disease.
A year later she was rechecked, and it seemed as if even more tissue had grown. She underwent a second surgery. Due to the rapid, rampant growth of the endometrial tissue, her doctor had to remove her other ovary and her uterus. So at the age of 34, she was forced into premature menopause. She never had children.
My youngest sister had a great deal of abdominal pain. So she underwent surgery by the same gynecologist (whom we all trust). She did have some endometrial tissue in her abdomen. The doctor removed it and prescribed an androgen pill, and later birth control pills. She never had children.
I had married in 1974 and gave birth to my children in 1977 and 1980, well before the age of 30. A couple of years after that, I did have some abdominal pain. I was tested and only a small amount was detected. I simply went on birth control pills, which was a natural step for me.
I believe that women bearing fewer children through the ’60s and ’70s contributed to the “rise” of this disease. And women going on to birth control at younger ages now helps keep it in check. The bottom line is that pays to get checked. A first gynecological exam should be done by the age of 18.