A WOMAN who waited more than a decade to be diagnosed with endometriosis has led a march to “fight against health inequality” faced by others with the conditon.

Samantha Hickson, from Ruthin, organised the first North Wales march dedicated to the chronic, often painful disorder that affects one in 10 women - yet takes on average nine years to be diagnosed in Wales.

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Endometriosis causes cells similar to those in the uterus to appear elsewhere in the body, causing inflammation, pain and often scarring and adhesions. The condition can also lead to infertility.

There is no cure for endometriosis but there are treatments that can help its symptoms, including excision which removes growths and scar tissue, however it is likely to return.

The condition does not appear on scans and the only way to diagnose it is by an operation which inserts a camera into the pelvis.

About 160 people took part in the EndoMarch in Llandudno, Conwy, holding placards reading “End to endo” and "Endo the silence".

Ms Hickson, who was told she had irritable bowel syndrome before her diagnosis aged 37, said: "Despite being common, many women with endometriosis are misdiagnosed. I wasn’t aware of condition until I was 27, and then it took more than 10 years for me to be diagnosed. During that time I was told I had stress, irritable bowel syndrome, and I was put under an induced menopause.

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“It is not uncommon for women to be told they need a hysterectomy, but endometriosis exists outside the uterus so it goes untreated."

Ms Hickson said that as in her case, the longer endometriosis is left untreated the more disabling it becomes.

“My misdiagnosis has had lasting physical and mental effects," she said.

Despite the condition being common Ms Hickson believes there is a “lack of knowledge” about endometriosis in the NHS, which is not helped by taboos that deter women from talking about it.

“Wales’ three specialists who can carry out the excision of the cells, the best treatment available, are all located in Cardiff, which makes the North Wales march is even more important as we are fighting against health inequality.

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“There are also taboos around talking about bodily dysfunction which do not help and mean that many people are unaware of it.

“When I was diagnosed I carried out a lot of my own research and eventually sought guidance from the charity Fair Treatment for the Women of Wales (FTWW), who I’m so grateful towards.

“FTWW is working with women by giving them advice about the condition, making them aware of the myths about how it should be treated and the correct treatment they can receive.

"I'm very positive things will change and we will campaign every year until it does.”

For further information about diagnosis and support, visit the FTWW website.