Women with severe endometriosis can be diagnosed and treated earlier thanks to a dedicated service at Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) that has maintained its accredited status for the third year running.
Sussex Endometriosis Centre (SEC) is the county’s first and only centre of excellence for the diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis – a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus.
Patients who have symptoms of severe endometriosis, typically affecting the bowel, bladder, or uterus, will be referred to the centre by their GP or local hospital if they require a specialist opinion.
Common symptoms of the condition include painful periods, pain during or after sex, infertility, painful bowel movements and/or fatigue.
Dr Rebecca Mallick, UHSussex Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, explains: “One in ten women will suffer from endometriosis, and of those, 10% will have severe endometriosis.
“On average, patients wait seven to 10 years for a diagnosis, as symptoms can vary and can be similar to other conditions. This centre helps to reduce diagnostic delays, as patients can be seen early on in their prognosis, diagnosed early, treated, and receive the appropriate follow up.”
Once at the Sussex Endometriosis Centre, the patient’s history will be taken during an outpatient appointment by a specialist gynaecologist or endometriosis specialist nurse. Further scans may be required to determine the severity of the condition and appropriate treatment, which can include pain medication, hormonal treatments or lifestyle advice, or surgery.
Jo, from Haywards Heath, was referred to the Centre by her GP after suffering with ‘excruciating’ pain for several years. Her symptoms had forced her to stop working and she had to use crutches to walk because of the severe pain.
She was diagnosed with stage four endometriosis, the most severe form of the condition, and underwent an operation to remove the endometriosis tissue.
Jo said: “I was experiencing a great deal of pain each month, to the point where I couldn’t function normally and had to spend hours in bed at a time.
“From my first appointment with the endometriosis team, I was treated with such care and consideration. They were incredible. The difference I felt after the operation was overwhelming. I didn’t need my crutches to walk anymore, and I could start living again. It moved me to tears.
“I never knew endometriosis could have such a dramatic effect on my life and the lives of others. The team at PRH helped me through one of the darkest times of my life, and I thank them all for their care and hard work.”
The centre, which first gained national accreditation by the British Society of Gynaecological Endoscopy (BSGE) in 2021, involves a multi-disciplinary team, including a gynaecologist, urologist, colorectal surgeon, radiologist, pain specialist and specialist nurse.
To achieve accreditation, services must meet certain criteria to showcase excellence in this field, including performing at least 12 severe endometriosis cases per year. Last year the team surpassed that mark by performing 26 cases.
Rebecca adds: “We get referrals from all over Sussex and further afield. The nearest centre of excellence used to be Surrey, so it is fantastic that patients can be seen more locally.
“We can offer specialist service care to patients and improve their experience by reducing the need for multiple surgeries.”
Rebecca is dedicated to raising awareness of endometriosis to improve the time it takes to diagnose the condition. She uses social media to share valuable resources, hold question and answer sessions and highlight any charity work she is undertaking. Rebecca can be followed on Twitter and Instagram via the handle @rebeccamallick.