Hefty financial burden of illness impacting women
THE under-recognised condition endometriosis is costing Australia an eye-watering $9.7 billion each year, with sufferers out of pocket on average $31,000 annually.
The huge cost of endometriosis is revealed today in an Australian study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The shock findings have sparked researchers to call for immediate policy action focused on better management of the unbearable pain reported to them by many women.
Endometriosis affects one in every 10 Australian women, with the average diagnosis taking seven to 10 years.
Health Minister Greg Hunt last year launched the National Action Plan for Endometriosis, the first blueprint seeking to improve treatment, understanding and awareness.
But the lead author of the study, Western Sydney University NICM Health Research Institute's Dr Mike Armour, said that the national action plan needed to prioritise improving pain control because this was the most significant contributor to the economic impact.
"More applied research is needed to assess the true prevalence rate of endometriosis, to determine these economic impacts with greater accuracy and guide urgent clinical and policy responses," Dr Armour said.
"Women in Australia with endometriosis or other causes of chronic pelvic pain incur a substantial financial burden caused by their condition.
"As well as health care costs, the pain they experience can result in time off work and a reduction in productivity, both at work and outside of work," he said.
The researchers found more than three-quarters of the costs were due to productivity loss. They found that women with endometriosis often report inadequate pain managements making it difficult to go to work.
Dr Armour said that a push to reduce this pain could reduce loss of productivity, along with improving quality of life.
Katrina Scott, 32, from Redcliffe, was diagnosed with endometriosis 10 years ago. She spent years in so much pain that she would black out. It took five years to be diagnosed.
She has had several laparoscopy surgeries, which can remove the endometriosis.
"Some years were more costly than others, but I would say I have spent an average of $15,000 to $20,000 annually over the decade. This condition is so misunderstood. Even when I was buckled in pain, I had one doctor tell me to go home and live with it," Ms Scott said.
- 1 in 9 women diagnosed
- In 2016-17 there were 34,200 hospitalisations
- 79 per cent hospitalisations were aged 15-44
- Average hospital stay is two days
- Average 7 years between symptoms and diagnosis
- Source AIHW 2019
WHAT IS ENDOMETRIOSIS?
- Can cause uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes or bowel to stick together.
- Extreme pelvic pain.
- Period agony
- Can impact fertility
- Can run in families
- Treatment available
- No known cure