Doctors offer insight on endometriosis and how to beat it

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ACROSS WEST MICHIGAN--It's a disease affecting nearly 200 million women worldwide.

It's called Endometriosis and happens when bits of tissue from inside a woman's uterus spread to the outside, causing pain and even infertility.

According to doctors, it's more common than you'd think; affecting one in every 10 women during their reproductive years.

Dr. Bitner, M.D., the director of Spectrum's Health Midlife and Menopause Health Services program, describes the disease as an analogy; thinking of a uterus as a lawn.

When you mow your grass, seeds are picked up, spit out, eventually planting themselves to grow. But just like some seeds grow in places they shouldn't, tissue can do the same.

"Endometriosis is certainly on our mind when we see a woman with pain," said Bitner.

Bitner is one of many OBGYN's seeing patients with the disease. Now, she's hoping to spread the word that her patients aren't alone.

"For women who suffer with this, there is no need to suffer," she said.

Symptoms of the disease include: painful periods, pain during intercourse and infertility.

It's caused from misplaced tissue, acting like a nasty weed that tampers your lawn.

"We want the tissue to be inside the uterus where it belongs.. it's when it spreads and goes outside your uterus it causes problems," she said. "Some of that tissue will go out the tubes into the surrounding pelvis."

That tissue, thickens, breaks down and bleeds out just as it would inside the uterus during a menstrual cycle, but with Endometriosis, the tissue becomes trapped.

Doctors say that's what creates pain during periods and intercourse.

"Think of your worst period cramps happening before your period starts and lasting after your periods done," Bitner said. "Endometriosis makes these inflammatory factors and when it's outside the uterus it causes blood vessel growth, so the vessels grow to feed it, also creates pain, it's also very sticky. It can cause the bladder to stick to the uterus."

Dr. Bitner advises symptoms in women may vary. Adding, not all women get the disease because some immune systems recognize the tissue outside the uterus as foreign.

She also  suggested getting surgery to cure Endometriosis. Although she says it's worth it in the end.

"I think a lot of women we're programmed to live with stuff. We don't want to be complainers we want to solider through, but it can definitely be at least helped if not cured," she said.

Bitner adds pregnancy and birth control can work to suppress symptoms as well.

"When the women is on the birth control pill [it] contains estrogen, [the] fertilizer, progesterone, [the] weed killer...but togetherit keeps the hormones evened out but in some women it can help suppress and help with the pain," she said.

We're told the disease is most commonly found in women in their 20's through 40's, but can affect teens.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, doctors are urging you to seek help.

 

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21 comments

  • Tammy Demmy

    I had stage 4 endometriosis, has my colon stuck to my uterus, my uterus stuck to my abdominal wall, both of my Fallopian tubes were blocked solid, causing me to become childless 😥!! Had a total hysterectomy 10 years ago 😥 ( which took 8 1/2 hrs, also causing me a 50/50 chance of wearing a Colostomy bag ( which don’t happen ) and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. My periods were so painful I’d take a bottle ( a day ) of Advil a day for three days and lay in my bed ( curled up like a fetus ) and cry! Thank god that’s over, just wish they would of caught it earlier so I could of had a child, but, as they say “Everything Happens For. a Reason”, as of now I don’t know that reason, but I’ve come to live with it!!!

  • elenalyn

    Thanks FOX for spreading misinformation about a disease that the general public already either doesn’t know what it is, or completely doesn’t understand what it is. Honestly, I wouldn’t expect anything different from FOX.
    Primarily, there is NO CURE! I had the “GOLD STANDARD” excision surgery by one of the world’s top Endometriosis Specialist, and it came back, as he said it would. Please open the following link or google “Cure for endometriosis and find out there is no cure: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/endometri/conditioninfo/Pages/treatment.aspx
    As for “”Think of your worst period cramps happening before your period starts and lasting after your periods done,” Bitner said.” WE DO NOT GET CRAMPS!!! Dr.’s who understand the disease compare the pain to labor pain. So women who get cramps, pop a Midol will never know what it feels like until they are in labor. Live with that 1/4-1/2 of your life.
    Anyone who wishes to understand Endometriosis for what it is, please read the following from one of the world’s top Endometriosis Specialist, Dr. Andrew Cook:
    “What it Really Means to Have Endometriosis”
    “Endometriosis by definition is a disease process whereby tissue somewhat like the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) exists outside the uterus. This “rogue” endometrial-like tissue most commonly involves the peritoneum, a thin layer of tissue that lines the pelvic structures, the bowel, the bladder and the ovaries. Quite frankly a lot of this medical stuff can be quite dry and boring and does not convey what it is like for a woman to have this disease and how it truly impacts her life, her family, her career, her sex life, and her ability to live her life in very basic ways.
    In reality, this disease can be like having tens or hundreds of excruciatingly painful blisters covering the inside of the pelvis. Infertility and pelvic pain are the two most common symptoms of endometriosis.
    Patients with endometriosis can experience horrific pain – for the lucky ones it lasts just a couple of days during their period, and in the worst cases the pain is 24/7. The dichotomy between the way women with endometriosis look well on the outside but are experiencing excruciating pain internally can cause even well-meaning people to doubt the severity of their pain.
    Most women begin to have pain in their teenage years, sometimes even starting in junior high school. While similar in timing, this pain is completely different than normal menstrual cramps. It is not uncommon for these girls to miss a couple of days of school each month from cyclic pain that can exceed the level of pain patients experience after major surgery.
    A lack of awareness of this disease can leave these girls without a correct diagnosis and support from their physicians. This can lead to a lack of appropriate treatment for the pain and invalidation of the patient’s situation. Her family is now led to believe that psychological issues drive the severity of her pain.
    In this tragic situation, she is effectively held prisoner and tortured by her own body in broad daylight, with no one who fully understands her situation or who can effectively help her.
    In this tragic situation, she is effectively held prisoner and tortured by her own body in broad daylight, with no one who fully understands her situation or who can effectively help her.
    Learn how to end this suffering.
    The symptoms usually progress as she matures into a young woman. Both the severity and duration of the pain typically increase. Initially most days each month are pain-free, but the number of these days slowly decreases until there are a greater number of non-functioning pain days. The unpredictability of the increasing number of pain days makes it challenging to maintain a functional life. It becomes increasingly difficult to make plans for a future date as it becomes more likely that it will be a pain day and she will not be able to follow through on her commitment for the activity.

    As a disease, endometriosis can take away many additional aspects of a normal life. Mothers cannot reliably meet the needs of their children when the pain is too severe to function. Wives try to push through the pain to be intimate with their husbands, but eventually the pain becomes too intense to continue. Grinding fatigue as severe as that experienced with advanced cancer is present in most cases. Bloating, moodiness, and bladder and bowel issues are common as well.

    Feeling like a vibrant desirable woman is long since gone. Acting like the loving compassionate woman, mother and partner that she truly is becomes more and more difficult. The stress on family relationships is common and real.
    Even at this stage, most women fight the disease, refusing to let it completely take over their life. You would most likely pass right by them in public, having no idea of the devastation they are dealing with. Most of the time they get up, put on a brave face and do their best to live a normal life.

    The medical definition of endometriosis does not even begin to describe the reality of what it means to have endometriosis. The next time you hear about endometriosis, please remember how devastating this disease can be to a person. While endometriosis can be frustrating, if you have a loved one, friend or co-worker who suffers from endometriosis, please remember to treat them with respect and compassion.”

    FOX, why don’t you post that?

  • Jessica

    This article is completely loaded with false information of all sorts you should honestly be ashamed of yourselves for posting it. It is NOT exactly like the tissue inside the uterus. Also, THERE IS NO CURE. Surgery with a qualified excision surgeon is your best treatment. But even then, it can still grow back. Considering I have had 3 excision surgeries with 3 different specialists over the last 10 years & I’m due for another one. Also, it does not just grow & spread during the menstrual cycle, considering I haven’t had a menstrual cycle in 5 years but IT’S STILL GROWING despite being on hormone therapy to stop the periods & a strict anti inflammatory diet. This disease is way too serious to compare to “weeds” and “weed killer”. & pregnancy can suppress your symptoms sure, but as soon as you have that baby, it’s back to square one & you’re in agonizing pain while trying to take care of another human. So to everyone reading this who believes any of this nonsense, EXCISION SURGERY IS KEY. Next time maybe you should contact an Endometriosis SPECIALIST instead of a certified menopause physician. Oh by the way, full hysterectomy & menopause doesn’t stop it either. It produces it’s OWN ESTROGEN & FEEDS OFF OF ITSELF. Please educate yourselves before you write an entire article on the first day of our awareness month!!!

  • Lorna

    How to “Beat” it? “Cure”? Man, how in the world did 176 million women not hear about this cure before! Would have saved SO much time. Part of the problem is #misinformation preventing a cure. This is misinformation. You are now part of the problem. #AskAnEndoExpert and educate before you spread more damage to us, ESPECIALLY on endo awareness month.

  • Dawn Danley-Nichols

    The information provided in this news story could not be more inaccurate. If you are going to report on endometriosis, you can best serve the health community and women by getting your information from a true endometriosis expert. It is doctors like the one cited above who mutilate women by telling them, incorrectly, that a hysterectomy, even including removal of their ovaries, will solve their endo. Endometriosis is not misplaced uterine tissue. That is a huge flaw in this doctor’s information. A true endometriosis expert, one who does complicated endometriosis excision surgery day after day, like Dr. Ken Sinervo of the Center for Endometriosis Care, explains the following about endometriosis tissue:
    “Most people think that when women have a period, a few of these cells travel through the fallopian tubes into the abdomen and then they end up implanting where they shouldn’t be” – “Most people” think that because it’s largely what the press and those who lack knowledge about the disease continue to perpetuate. However, despite propagation of this premise by certain high profile endo organizations and others concerned with the disease, endometriosis is not simply bits of rogue, normal endometrium implanted via backflow periods. Long gone are the days of Sampson. Normal endometrium is profoundly, histologically different from the functional glands and stroma that comprise the disease, and while it somewhat resembles the tissue, it is not the same. This outdated, widely-touted notion continues to keep endometriosis mired needlessly in delayed diagnoses, oft-needless hysterectomy, poor surgical treatments, ineffective medical suppressives and wholly deficient support of individuals with the disease. See also http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23721717.

    Please correct your story. You are giving inaccurate information to your viewers. This type of information is what causes doctors to convince their patients that if they only remove their uterus, or even their ovaries too(!), they will be healed from this ugly disease. Rather, the disease itself needs to be removed by excising it from all areas on which is grows by expert endometriosis excision specialists. Burning the top layer of the disease with the laser (similar to a lawnmower, ha!) only angers it further and causes scar tissue/adhesions. Additionally, removing the ovaries will unlikely help either, as endometriosis lesions often produce their own estrogen. Please refer to a endometriosis excision expert and correct your story. Thank you.

  • J Moon

    This article’s author and Dr. Bitner are horrendously misinformed. Endo is NOT made of the same tissue that lines the uterus. Peer reviewed medical research has shown that endo lesions are unequivocally different from endometrium and are most likely laid down during fetal development. They are not a result of menses or misplaced uterine tissue. Furthermore, progesterone does nit eradicate the disease, which is capable of producing its own estrogen. Please, fact check your content, for the sake of millions of women worldwide who deserve better than to be misled by uninformed media and out-dated medical professionals.

    http://endopaedia.info contains reliable, research based information by one of the world’s leading Endo specialists. I recommend you educate yourself and request that the glaring errors in this article be corrected.

  • R Ring

    My daughter suffers with Endometriosis and I’m shocked that so much information in this is incorrect. Please speak to Dr. Ken Sinervo at the Center for Endometriosis Care in Atlanta Georgia for the correct information. Interview him so that women can get some real help.

  • gynehell

    I’m unsure where my first post went; however, I explicitly requested that this story be corrected. This story is a great disservice to the medical community and to women due to the inaccurate information. The worst part of this story is the statement that endometriosis is merely misplaced uterine tissue. That is absolutely inaccurate. It’s this type of misinformation that causes women to be convinced into getting hysterectomies and even have their ovaries removed, as doctors tell women that their uterus is the source of this ugly disease. Instead of citing the doctor above, please contact an endometriosis excision expert who accomplishes complex surgeries day-in and day-out on suffering women. Dr. Ken Sinervo of the Center for Endometriosis Care is acknowledged as being one of the leaders in excision surgery and he explains the inaccurate information as follows:
    “Most people think that when women have a period, a few of these cells travel through the fallopian tubes into the abdomen and then they end up implanting where they shouldn’t be” – “Most people” think that because it’s largely what the press and those who lack knowledge about the disease continue to perpetuate. However, despite propagation of this premise by certain high profile endo organizations and others concerned with the disease, endometriosis is not simply bits of rogue, normal endometrium implanted via backflow periods. Long gone are the days of Sampson. Normal endometrium is profoundly, histologically different from the functional glands and stroma that comprise the disease, and while it somewhat resembles the tissue, it is not the same. This outdated, widely-touted notion continues to keep endometriosis mired needlessly in delayed diagnoses, oft-needless hysterectomy, poor surgical treatments, ineffective medical suppressives and wholly deficient support of individuals with the disease. See also http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23721717.”

    By publishing the above information and sharing it with your viewers, you are perpetuating a 100 year old medical myth that has caused women endless suffering. The only way to cure endo is by removing the endo lesions. You don’t cure endo by removing the uterus, as the condition does not derive from the uterus. Moreover, removing the ovaries doesn’t work either, as endometriosis lesions produce estrogen too! Burning the top layer of endo off of women’s organs (much like a lawnmower (ha!)) is not effective treatment either. The endometriosis lesion must be removed in total, much like uprooting a weed. Otherwise, it continues to exist and cause women pain. That is the only treatment for endometriosis. Stop removing women’s organs by telling them the uterus is the cause for endo!

  • Linda Taylor

    You know it is sad that many years ago while I was attending a Resolve (a national infertility and adoption support organization with many local chapters) symposium one of the Reproductive Endocrinologists (an OB/GYN who has completed a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology and therefore more highly trained than a regular OB/GYN) during his speech said that most everything they had been taught in medical school about endometriosis had been proven wrong. It seems that the Dr, you interviewed is one of those that has not kept up with the latest research. If endometriosis was indeed caused by retrograde menstruation then it would be impossible for it to have been found in infants and children, even men. It has however been found during autopsy of dead infants and little girls who have never had a menstrual cycle and therefore could never have had it spread from the uterus through the fallopian tubes into the abdomen. Amazing enough the rate that it has been found during those autopsie is 10% the same rate it is believed to exist in the population. The fact that the endometriosis lesions differ in many aspects from regular endometrial tissue has been proven by many studies. It is past time that the retrograde menstruation THEORY, a theory postulated over 100 years ago, be put to rest as it has perpetuated a wrong direction in treatment. The only way to get rid of the disease is to have it excised by a skilled physician who has been trained how to recognize it in all its insidious forms. If the disease is ablated it will come back requiring surgery again and again and again and again as ablation does not take all of the disease out. To use this drs. lawncare analogy, if you mow the tops off of weeds they will come back. Weeds must be pulled out by the root just as endometriosis must be excised, cut out completely.
    Also it is not just a disease of a woman’s reproductive years as I will turn 60 this month and have been dealing with it for what will be half a century come next Halloween. Yes, what a joke, I began my menses and my descent into my very own horror movie at the age of 10 on Halloween. Women have been operated on for endometriosis at the age of 78. The lesions produce their own estrogen and menopause is not “a cure.” After 2 laparoscopies and 3 laparotomies I had two different drs, say I had the worst case they had ever seen. The inside of my abdomen was described by drs. to be “concrete” and “a war zone.” They won’t even give me a hysterectomy because the surgery would take about 10 hours and be life endangering.
    I was not listened to when I was 10, not until the disease was so advanced that the dr, could feel it during an exam at the age of 29 which was too late for them to really help me. They just did more harm with their drug therapies, drug therapies that don’t get rid of any endometriosis. They poisoned me with Lupron which has caused me to have permanent side effects for which I have to take 13 different prescriptions every day to combat them.
    It is time to listen to our girls.
    It is time to have a special sub category for OB/GYNS that want to help the 10% of us with endo. The amount of training that OB/GYNS receive in school is completely inadequate to treat endo. The surgical skill needed to properly treat endo is akin to the skill needed to treat cancer.
    It is time for the insurance compensation to reflect the difficulty of the surgery. When effective surgery can take 6 or more hours but the dr. only gets reimbursed for 1/2 hour because most drs. are doing ineffective ablation which causes a revolving surgical door it makes it impossible for drs. to stay in insurance networks.
    It is time to put REAL research dollars (as in more than a pittance) into finding a cure.

  • Amanda

    Reading this article not only makes me angry but makes me sad for the false hope it will bring to people. There is NO CURE! I have battled this disease for years and am appalled at the lack of knowledge in this article and that it was published! For shame!

  • Mom

    She is wrong. Surgery is not always helpful. Your body becomes addicted to it, and the pain can be worse then when you started. Look further into these opinions before you jump to her advice….

  • amanda

    Have surgery? Do they not realize that about 50% of women will get endo back. If it was this simple don’t you think everyone would just be getting surgery and moving on with their life? Not that easy.. I had surgery about 4 months ago and i am already experiencing the same pain as before..

  • Tarrah Gee

    Very good article, however it’s written that the doctor recommends surgery to “cure” women’s endometriosis. This is not true!! There is no cure for endometriosis. I have been a sufferer for 5 plus years.

  • Farrah Woodard

    This is why these kind of doctors who believe so many misconceptions have NO business dealing with Endometriosis in any form or fashion. As complexed as Endo is, it should not be handled by any doctor that doesn’t have great expertise in properly Excising Endo alone, not just some General OB that delivered a baby at 4am and has interest in 3-5 other women issues as Dr Bitner does such as menopausal symptoms, high risk pregnancies and plain pelvic surgery. No listing of Endometriosis or Chronic Pelvic Pain. General OB’s are great for simple Gynecological issues, Endo however isn’t one of them!
    This disease ruins women’s lives on EVERY level and so many doctors just don’t get that. You’re trapped in a body that is literally ravaging you from the inside out. We (The Patient’s) can inform and educate you on things you were never taught in school. Suprisingly we can do this not because we have an MD or PhD behind our name, it’s because WE LIVE WITH THIS DISEASE, some which live it every day. So stop with the false reports, and please stop filling young women who are beginning this hard journey with incorrect and appalling crap that isn’t true and has no scientific basis whatsoever considering Adolecent Gynecology is also one of your interests. Trust me, if this was YOUR daughter experiencing this kind of misery from a disease, believe me, you would want the expert who performs only these surgeries day in and day out! This I can promise you.
    To those who are wondering where to start, make sure you ask your current OB how many of these Endo procedures they perform monthly. What method of removal do they use even for superficial Endo, Ablation or Excision? How many of their patients have reaccurance rates where they have to go in for another Lap Surgery due to repeated missed Endo. Are they trained to excise the Endo if found on the Bowel or bladder? If not do they have those specialist on hand. Do they know all the different colors of Endo and all the locations, even the rare locations? Finally, if they suggest Lupron as the first course of action for Endo RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN. This is a huge indicator and red flag they don’t know what they’re doing.
    Kindly,
    25 year & counting Endo Survivor. 💛💪