What Lena Dunham’s “Disease-free” Endometriosis Declaration Really Means
10 April 2017 by - Dr Pandelis Athanasias
Over the past couple of years, public figure Lena Dunham has been very vocal about her struggle with endometriosis, a common gynaecological condition which affects millions of women worldwide and means womb tissue grows outside the uterus. Endometriosis is a chronic condition which often leads to intense, painful bleeding, stomach and pelvic pain and difficulty falling pregnant.
In the latest edition of Dunham’s newsletter, Lenny Letter, she has stated that she is now free of endometriosis, after having undergone her fifth surgery to separate her ovaries from her rectal wall. She notes that the pain she had suffered for years at the hands of endometriosis was on-going and extreme and that the last operation she underwent had put an end to this pain.
Although it is fantastic news to hear that Dunham’s pain is gone, it is important to clarify that endometriosis is in fact incurable. It is therefore problematic to use a term like “disease-free” to describe the condition. In many cases, women may have the condition but exhibit little symptoms. The fact that they may not feel intense pain, does not mean the endometriosis is not there.
Likewise, in Dunham’s case, her “disease-free” announcement means she does not presently have any endometrial tissue growing outside her uterus. This is what medical professionals will call ‘in remission’. This means that it is very possible that it could reappear in the future, along with her pain, as she quite rightly points out further on in her letter.
We need to ensure women are receiving the right information about endometriosis and this includes informing them that there are no permanent cures, only treatment options which can help manage the symptoms.