Killer menstrual cramps, pain during sex, bloating, and pain even when you don’t have your period are all signs of endometriosis—a disorder in which endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus, attaching to other pelvic organs. Yet symptoms like these are often downplayed by doctors as a normal part of having a monthly cycle or even dismissed as psychological.
That’s what happened to Lina Kharnak, who dealt with chronic symptoms and had her concerns blown off by medical professionals for seven years before she was finally diagnosed with endometriosis. Kharnak is now speaking out about her experience, urging other women to advocate for their health and get worrisome symptoms addressed. We asked Christine Greves, MD, an ob-gyn at the center for obstetrics and gynecology at Orlando Health in Florida, for tips on how women who suspect they might have endometriosis can make sure they’re heard by their doctor.
Keep a log of your symptoms
Giving your doctor a general list of your symptoms won’t get you far when it comes to endometriosis. Many typical endo signs only strike at certain times during your cycle, so the more specific you can be with your doctor, the better. Start keeping track of exactly when each symptom happens, as well as when your period starts and ends.
For example, when do your cramps kick in and how long do they last? Do you have any bloating? Constipation? Write all of it down. Any issue that doesn’t seem normal is worth mentioning, including things like pain during sex or urination. Don’t leave any details out. This will give your doctor the clearest possible picture of your symptoms. (Plus, it’ll show them just how seriously you’re taking this.)
Schedule an appointment
Make an appointment with your regular ob-gyn, the person you see for your annual exam. Dr. Greves says this doctor has a “baseline of your normal, everyday health,” so they’ll be able to tell if something is off. If your usual ob-gyn doesn’t have much experience with endo, ask them to recommend someone who does. Or check out the resources on SpeakEndo.com, which can help you find a specialist in your area.
Speak up about your suspicions
When your health is at stake, you have to be your own biggest advocate. Tell your doctor that you think you might have endo and explain why, then ask them to give you specific reasons why they agree or disagree. If you think you’re being brushed off, tell them so, Dr. Greves says. She suggests saying something like, “I need you to know I’m genuinely concerned, and this has affected my quality of life. If you were in my situation, what would you do?”
Still don’t feel heard? Ask them to recommend another doctor. This will show you’re not willing to let your concerns go and will hopefully give you someone to turn to for a second opinion. Don’t worry about offending them; it’s their job to listen to you.
Ask for further testing
No one test officially diagnoses endo, but your doctor can do more tests that look into your symptoms. The first would be a pelvic exam, which allows them to feel for cysts or scars. If you want your doctor to take a closer look, you could also request an ultrasound, which can ID endometriosis-caused cysts more thoroughly. It’s also smart to ask to get a blood test, to rule out other conditions.
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