Lena Dunham, creator and star of the television series Girls, yesterday announced she was taking a break from promoting the new season for health reasons. Dunham has been suffering from endometriosis, a disease affecting one out of ten women of menstruating age, since her first period.
After her Facebook announcement, several news outlets published some basic facts about the common yet misunderstood illness. While most got it right, CNN made the incorrect claim that hysterectomy is the “only absolute cure” for the condition – a claim that has since been removed from the site.
Yet CNN retained several incorrect statements, including that endometriosis is a condition mostly affecting women in their 30s and 40s.
Watch Mia Freedman discuss endometriosis below. Post continues after video.
CNN’s mistakes are unfortunate but not surprising. Endometriosis is typified by a high degree of uncertainty, making even a basic summary difficult. This latest incident is further proof it’s a neglected, gendered and politicised disease that needs to be taken more seriously by academics doctors and others, alike.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is most often defined as a chronic gynaecological condition, where endometrial-type tissue grows outside the uterus.
It can occur in all women of menstruating age. Stating that it affects mainly those in their 30s and 40s is concerning as endometriosis isn’t always suspected or investigated among younger women, and studies consistently show lengthy delays to diagnosis.
If a woman hasn’t fallen pregnant by the end of her menstrual cycle, the tissue lining her uterus sheds (the period). In women with endometriosis, it seems the tissue located outside the uterus also bleeds and swells. Lesions, cysts and nodules can develop, often causing severe cramping, bleeding and pain.