It is a debilitating disease that affects one in ten Australian women -- and one that is widely misunderstood.
In a step forward, the Victorian government has launched Australia's first resource kit to help women and doctors recognise, diagnose and treat endometriosis -- a condition that can affect a woman's reproductive organs and result in heavy periods, pain and infertility.
Awareness is so important. We need to build up that support.
The evidence-based resources have been produced by not-for-profit organisation Jean Hailes for Women's Health using a $100,000 government grant.
"Women with endometriosis often suffer in silence, both through physical pain and emotional distress, unable to receive the medical and social support they need," Minister for Health Jill Hennessy said.
"By investing in these Victorian-first resources, we're putting the health, fertility and well-being of Victorian women first so they can get on with spending time with their friends, family and work colleagues."
Caity Hards, 27, who has moved through 12 years of chronic pain, fatigue and surgery following her diagnosis, said the announcement is a welcome step.
"This is a great start and I think it is fantastic that the government is allocating some funding towards increasing awareness," Hards told The Huffington Post Australia.
"But we do have a long way to go."
For Hards, who joins 200,000 other Victorian women who are estimated to suffer from the disease, this began when she was 11-years-old.
"My symptoms started around the same time that I got my period. I was misdiagnosed a few times before I decided to look up my symptoms myself. At that point, my GP sent me off to a gynaecologist... I was 15," Hards said.
There are so many young girls who have no idea that they have endometriosis. They think they are supposed to have nasty periods.
"Since then, I've had seven surgeries, roughly every 18 months to two years. For the rest of the time, it has just been about managing the pain and everything else that comes with it.
"It has affected me quite significantly -- whether that be my ability to work, my relationships or my ability to fall pregnant."
Like Hards, many women with the condition can face a delay from onset to diagnosis of up to seven years, due to lacking awareness across the medical community and a range of symptoms that can be difficult to pinpoint.
Despite this, early diagnosis is critical in minimising the impacts of the disease.
"There are so many young girls and women who have no idea that they have endometriosis. They think it's irritable bowel syndrome or that they are supposed to have nasty periods," Hards said.
"Women who are trying to have children may find out two years down the track that the reason they couldn't fall pregnant is because they have endometriosis.
"That's why awareness is so important. We need to build up that support."
They are an important tool in giving women and their health professional better signposts towards early diagnosis and appropriate management for this all too often debilitating condition.
The resources are based on the latest scientific evidence and include a pre-diagnosis brochure, a post-diagnosis brochure and tools for health practitioners to support the assessment, diagnosis and management of endometriosis.
For Executive Director of Jean Hailes, Janet Michelmore, the resources will act as an essential source of information and support.
"They are an important tool in giving women and their health professional better signposts towards early diagnosis and appropriate management for this all too often debilitating condition."
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