Roughly 130,000 women nationwide are undergoing treatment at hospitals for endometriosis, a figure higher than that for other diseases such as cancer or diabetes, according to results of a survey released Wednesday by the Health and Welfare Ministry.
The number of endometriosis cases reported annually is believed to be rising in recent years, and some observers have linked the trend to the effects of endocrine disrupters. Wednesday’s probe was the first attempt to track on a nationwide basis the disease, which causes abnormal growth of uterine tissue.
A ministry study group selected about 800 out of the roughly 10,500 hospitals across the country that had obstetrics and gynecology facilities and surveyed women who either were treated or hospitalized for endometriosis during October 1997. It then estimated the figure for the entire country.
Overall, the estimated number of those undergoing treatment came to 128,000, with 298 out of every 100,000 women between the ages of 10 and 60 going to the hospital for the disease.
The 30-34 age group had the largest percentage undergoing treatment, with 644 women per 100,000. The 35-39 age bracket followed with 531 per 100,000 and those in the 25-29 range came to 515.
Ministry officials said the figures were extremely high for a malady whose patients were usually in their late 20s and 30s.
Observers pointed out that the survey underlines the need for both further research into the illness as well as better social support measures, since the situation could have adverse effects both at home and the workplace.
According to health ministry statistics, as of 1996 roughly 590 out of every 100,000 people suffered from high blood pressure, with the figures for cancer and diabetes at about 210 and 190, respectively.
Wednesday’s survey shows that the average age of an endometriosis patient is 35. On average, she was required to go to the hospital for a total 660 days, and 70 percent of patients required painkillers. Thirty percent of the patients suffered from infertility.
One member of the ministry group, Mikio Momoeda of the University of Tokyo, said that society tends to overlook the seriousness of the situation because the disease only affects women. “We hope that this survey will raise awareness on the matter,” he said. The results are to be presented to a meeting of the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology next week.
Hiroshi Hoshiai, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Kinki University said he suspects the actual figure is higher than that in the ministry survey. “The number of women affected by the disease is on the rise in many industrialized nations, and measures must be taken on a national level,” he said.