A petition, backed by 101,910 signees, is arguing for increased funding for endometriosis and PCOS research, two female indications that desperately need more attention. The petition states: “Endometriosis and PCOS are two gynecological conditions which both affect 10% of women worldwide, but both are, in terms of research and funding, incredibly under prioritised”. The government submitted a formal response stating that it recognises the importance of research into these two areas.
What are endometriosis and PCOS, and why should they receive more funding?
Endometriosis is a disease in which endometrial-like tissue is found outside of the uterus. Common clinical manifestations include menstrual irregularities, chronic pelvic pain (CPP), infertility, pain during sexual intercourse, and pain during one’s menstrual period. These symptoms overlap with other illnesses, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which can complicate the diagnosis process. Due to a variety of factors such as normalisation of painful periods and decreased physician awareness, women may wait an average of seven to eight years before receiving a proper diagnosis. A definitive diagnosis can only be made via a laparoscopy, a highly invasive surgical procedure. Otherwise, patients are provided different therapy options to see how their bodies respond. Unfortunately, current medications are lacking, with many interfering with a women’s ability to conceive and/or producing negative side effects such as hot flashes and bone mineral density (BMD) loss. The pain experienced as a result of this chronic condition can significantly affect a woman’s quality of life, with many endometriosis sufferers reporting feelings of depression and/or anxiety, with potential impacts on career, family, relationships, and psychological condition. However, the level of pain experienced varies case to case, with some women having no symptoms at all. Increased awareness of endometriosis among medical professionals and the public has improved over the past few years, with celebrities like Amy Schumer, Cyndi Lauper, Chrissy Teigen, and Lena Dunham openly discussing their struggles. A GlobalData Key Opinion Leader (KOL) discussed his take, sharing that he feels in the last five years, physician awareness of endometriosis has become much better, and patients have also become more vocal about potential menstrual pain concerns. Despite increased discussion surrounding endometriosis, EU KOLs note three unmet needs: early diagnoses, therapeutics that allow a patient to conceive while mitigating endometriosis-associated pain, and long-term treatment options.
PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is a condition where a woman’s hormones are imbalanced. This interferes with one’s menstrual periods, making them irregular or prolonged. Women with PCOS tend to have higher levels of androgens, or male sex hormones, which can lead to facial hair or acne. As the name implies, the illness can also cause the ovaries to enlarge, with follicles that surround the eggs. However, not all women who have PCOS have cysts on their ovaries. Like endometriosis, PCOS can also cause infertility, as well as miscarriage, premature birth, abnormal uterine bleeding, and more.
The exact causes of both endometriosis and PCOS are not known, which is in part why further research into these areas is so vital. Another important similarity between the two indications is that often, oral contraceptives are provided as a first line of therapy. Although this can alleviate symptoms, it does not address the etiology of the disease itself—which, again, is not fully understood for either disease. The outcome of Monday’s discussion has the capacity to further endometriosis and PCOS research to improve therapy options. Ideally, this in turn will better the overall quality of life for UK female citizens who are afflicted by either of these painful diseases.