Schoolgirls Are Finally Being Taught About Endometriosis In National First
South Australia will become the first state to launch an endometriosis school education program to raise awareness on periods, pain and the chronic menstrual health disorder.
South Australian high school student Holly Cooke struggled through several years of chronic pain and fatigue before being diagnosed with endometriosis last year.
The pain sufferers of the chronic menstrual health condition experience is caused when cells similar to those that line the uterus, grow outside the uterus.
Together with a friend, Cooke, set-up a lunch time discussion group on the often crippling condition at her Mercedes College high school, before the students hosted a forum for 200 other young women on the issue.
Speaking at the launch of a state-wide endometriosis education program on Wednesday, the year 12 student said she felt amazing and really rewarded.
Cooke, whose early diagnosis has allowed her to get treatment, said she feels very lucky to have been able to have surgery to prevent a lot of the serious damage that can be caused by the life-long disease.
"First of all, I was able to get treatment... but it was also actually a bit of closure," the 18-year-old said of her early diagnosis.
Libby Parker, from the Pelvic Pain Foundation who is spearheading the education program said she was "thrilled" that the pilot program run last year would be expanded to 80 schools across South Australia.
"We think for the one in 10 girls who have endometriosis, this will make the world of difference," Parker said.
Parker who was also diagnosed with endometriosis four years ago has herself struggled with the debilitating health effects of the disease, including an appendix removal, a miscarriage, infertility issues and chronic pain that has impacted her ability to work.
"It's stigma," Parker said when asked why it has taken so long for a program to be rolled out in Australia.
"Periods tend to be a taboo issue unfortunately, but the more we keep talking about it... it's going to make a huge difference."
She said the pilot program, which focuses on educating girls about what is normal and not normal pain, endometriosis symptoms and how to seek help -- revealed that a lot of young girls hadn't heard about the disease before
"We realised there are a lot of girls who went off [after the program] and were diagnosed... while others realised their periods were actually ok," Parker told reporters on Wednesday.
She said educating men was also very important, with funding also being dedicated to education programs for medical practitioners and employers, to promote understanding of the need for sufferers to be given more support around mental issues and chronic pain that can stem from the diagnosis.
Male students can also be involved in the school education program, Parker said.
Federal MP Nicolle Flint who has worked on the national action plan announced by the government earlier this year, said every Australian woman should know what the disease is and how to seek help for bad period pain.
She said the program was about providing "statewide education for young women about what is and isn't normal when you get your period."
"We need every young woman in the nation to know that bad period pain is not normal."
South Australian Health Minister Stephen Wade also praised the program saying the disease can have serious debilitating consequences, including organ damage and mental health issues.
"It's very important that we make young girls aware of what menstruation is normal and what is not ... so that as they recognise the symptoms they can reasoned early," Wade said.
"Early intervention is a key part of keeping girls and young women safe."
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