WEST LINN, Ore. – One in 10 women suffers from a painful condition called endometriosis and a West Linn doctor says a new surgery has been helping her patients cope with it.
Dr. Melissa Pendergrass told KGW it can take a long time, 10 years even, for some women to find out they have endometriosis. She said far too many women then accept the pain and suffer in silence.
“I want women to know it's not OK to be in severe pain for most of their reproductive lives," she said.
The disorder happens when glands normally found in the uterus develop in other parts of the body. Those glands then release chemicals that lead to inflammation, causing pain and irritation of nerve fibers. One major symptom is severe menstrual cramps.
“These symptoms actually start in adolescence,” she said. “Those girls who have horrible cramps that are missing school a couple of days a month probably have a 70 percent chance of going on later to have a diagnosis of endometriosis."
Pendergrass recently treated Cassie Chitwood for the disorder, which often caused her to miss work.
“I thought that was the way I was made,” Chitwood said. “My mom had painful cycles and I just thought that's the way my body was."
She finally found relief for her endometriosis after Dr. Pendergrass removed all the problem glands, instead of cauterizing or burning them.
“Before, it was almost like skimming the tip of an iceberg and some women got temporary relief,” Pendergrass explained. “But when you leave diseased tissue behind it causes recurring symptoms."
Chitwood's surgery was a success.
She no longer misses work and says a lot more is possible for her without those painful periods.
“It’s just made a world of difference," she said. “The freedom that I have, not having to be in bed for two days. It was so worth it."
Pendergrass said endometriosis is difficult to diagnose, because it takes surgery to be sure. But if you're having symptoms that cause you to miss work or school, you should talk with a gynecologist.