The first national guideline aiming to speed up the diagnosis, treatment and management of women with endometriosis has been published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Women can face a seven-and-a-half-year wait, on average, for a confirmed diagnosis of endometriosis — a chronic condition in which cells usually found in the womb grow elsewhere in the body, triggering painful and heavy periods, bladder and bowel problems and reduced fertility.
Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for guidelines at NICE, England’s health technology assessment body, said: “This guideline will help healthcare professionals detect endometriosis early, to close the symptom-to-diagnosis gap and to ensure more timely treatment.”
The guideline includes a list of symptoms that doctors and other healthcare professionals should look for – such as pelvic pain and painful periods – which it hopes will help reduce delays in beginning treatment.
Healthcare professionals should also be aware that the condition can be long-term and have a “significant impact” on a patient’s sex life and physical and mental health.
The guideline recommends that if symptoms persist, regardless of initial examination or investigation, the woman should be referred for further assessment.
Emma Cox, chief executive of the patient support charity Endometriosis UK, said the guideline will “raise the bar” in endometriosis care by setting standards of care and increasing healthcare professionals’ knowledge and skills.
Caroline Overton, consultant gynaecologist and chair of the NICE guideline committee said it is “imperative” that women are given support to manage their symptoms as the condition is incurable: “This guideline highlights the different programmes of care available to help reduce the burden of this disease on women’s lives. As one of the most common gynaecological diseases in the UK, it is vital that endometriosis is more widely recognised now.”