Stomach Pain Cramp

The silent epidemic rendering women infertile

It’s a disease that costs Australia an estimated $7 billion a year in direct medical expenses and lost productivity but the potential cost to suffers is immeasurable.

Defined as the presence of endometrial cells outside of the uterus, endometriosis is one of the most prevalent diseases affecting around 700,000 Australian women and 170 million world-wide.

According to Senior Monash IVF Specialist Dr Kee Ong, these figures are just the tip of the iceberg.

“Endometriosis is as common as Asthma yet we know very little about it. Awareness and understanding is lacking across the spectrum from patients to doctors. It’s massively undiagnosed and one of the most common causes of infertility,” she said.

Diagnosed through key-hole surgery called a laproscopy, Dr Ong says women in Australia often experience a delay of seven to 12 years between the onset of symptoms and correct diagnosis.

Women like Katina Sparke, a Brisbane intensive care nurse and midwife that hopes her personal journey will help break the taboo and raise awareness for the condition.

With the help of Dr Ong, the 35 year-old has won a 5-year battle with one of infertility’s most potent weapons but says other women are slipping through the cracks.

“It’s terrifying and women need to know about this. Women are going through severe and extreme emotional and financial turmoil undergoing repeated IVF cycles when they never stand a chance at success,” she said.

Endometriosis is a chronic disease, where sufferers often experience constant pelvic discomfort, infertility, pain during periods, sex and going to the toilet.

Dr Ong says its variable presentation however, means some patients will suffer with very severe symptoms while others will experience no symptoms at all.

“Many women are unaware they have the condition until they start trying for a baby,” he said.

The incidence of endometriosis in sub-fertile females is 20 to 40 percent, significantly higher than that the general population.

Dr Ong told myGC early diagnosis is essential and surgery significantly improves the chances of conceiving.

Katrina and her husband decided to start a family in 2013 but failed to fall pregnant. Suffering extreme symptoms of endometriosis from an early age, Katrina pushed her doctor for the diagnosis she knew was behind her struggle.

“He was hesitant to do surgery citing no indications for the procedure. I looked young and healthy and was pushing through immense pain to work so my symptoms were not taken seriously. Call it nurses intuition. I knew something was not right,” she said.

Katrina’s doctor eventually performed the laproscopy finding severe endometriosis. She had a fixed frozen pelvis, a huge cyst which would require the removal of part of her right ovary and the endometriosis had spread to her bowel and diaphragm.

“I was infuriated when told the diagnosis was surprising. I was then refused further surgery as the doctor said it was too risky with too many organs involved. I was told to begin IVF. Luckily, I didn’t listen,” she said.

Katrina saw numerous doctors before finding one who agreed to perform surgery to completely remove the endometriosis.

“I was told it was unlikely the endometriosis would return and that I should try to conceive naturally before considering IVF,” she said.

6 months later, following numerous failed IVF cycles at a public IVF clinic in Brisbane, Katrina was still advised to ‘just keep going.’

“They told me it was a lottery system and a numbers game. Women need to know this is the wrong advice. People need to know about the trauma women are going through,” she said.

After researching top fertility specialists in Australia, Katrina found herself in the Gold Coast office of Dr Kee Ong for a second opinion.

“I Immediately knew I was in the right hands. Dr Ong confirmed and validated my concerns and through immediate surgery, he found my endometriosis had returned to moderate levels,” she said.

Under a tailored and specific treatment plan which included the removal of her endometriosis and the additional suppression of Natural Killer (NK) cells, Katrina successfully underwent IVF to fall pregnant with twins.

“I just want to raise awareness. I know women who have gone through 7 cycles of IVF before being diagnosed correctly with endometriosis. Medical professionals need to be more aware of how common this condition is and the devastating consequences if left untreated,” she said.

Dr Ong encourages women to speak up, ask questions, do their research and be more proactive about their treatment plans.

“Fertility is not a numbers game. The emotional, physical and financial toll of multiple, failed IVF treatments can be devastating and unanswered questions add to an extremely stressful situation. Getting to the bottom of the cause of infertility must come first,” he said

For Katrina, it’s now about spreading the word. “Endometriosis is a lifelong condition that can be completely debilitating. It can effect your sex life, your marriage, your mental health and your fertility.”

“Many of my colleagues told me they’re taught in medical school that part of the diagnosis is factoring in days missed at school or work and that endometriosis is rarely a young woman’s condition. This is not the case,” she said.

“I one hundred percent believe Dr Ong is the only reason I was able to achieve pregnancy. Women must make sure they find the right specialist because empathy, meticulous care and expertise is so crucial on this journey. We were sent a miracle. Dr Ong has given us a family and there is no greater gift than that.”

This is a sponsored editorial brought to you by Dr Kee Ong.

 

Science

$2 million in cancer research grants awarded in Queensland

Cancer Council Queensland have today announced they will invest $2 million in cancer research projects across the state over the next two years.

Ten Queensland research teams have been named as the charity’s 2019-2020 research grant recipients and will receive $200,000 toward their projects.

To help improve treatment options and quality of life for cancer patients the research grants will be invested in projects that examine brain cancer cells, cancer vaccines, multi-cancer risk genes, immunotherapy, cell death, drug resistance, bowel polyps, and more

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said more Queenslanders were surviving cancer than any other time in history, thanks to advances in cancer research and treatment options.

“Investment in innovative, ground-breaking research in Queensland is vital for improving survival rates for all types of cancer,” Ms McMillan said.

“Cancer Council Queensland proudly funds more cancer research than any other independent community-based charity in the state.

“Congratulations to our grant recipients from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, The University of Queensland and Queensland University of Technology.

“We are excited to see the outcomes of these research grants, which are giving hope to the one in two Queenslanders who are diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and their loved ones.”

Among the grant recipients is Associate Professor Vicki Whitehall, from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, who hopes her work will one day reduce the number of people who are diagnosed with bowel cancer and lose their lives to the disease.

“The focus of this project is a particular type of polyp, called a ‘sessile serrated adenoma’, which we have proved accounts for at least 20 per cent of all bowel cancers,” Professor Whitehall said.

“We will investigate gene changes to predict which of these polyps have potential to progress to cancer, which will inform surveillance guidelines.

Associate Professor Whitehall said her work would not be possible without philanthropic support.

Fellow grant recipient and QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute researcher, Professor Mark Smyth, agreed on the importance of continued research funding.

“Cancer Council Queensland’s support is critical to support researchers with a two-year position and to provide an opportunity to undertake cutting-edge, translational research that can greatly benefit patients,” Professor Smyth said.

“Cancer research in Queensland is in desperate need for greater funding and Cancer Council Queensland plays an integral part of the mechanism to achieve a more vibrant and contributing cancer research sector in Queensland.”

Professor Smyth’s research is in cancer immunotherapy. He was amongst the first to show that the immune system interacts with cancer and affects cancer development.

This research grant funding will assist in a pre-clinical project, helping bring new cancer immunotherapies to the clinic.

“Immunotherapy is emerging as an alternative to standard anti-cancer therapies, but many patients still do not benefit from these immunotherapies,” Professor Smyth said.

A full list of Cancer Council Queensland’s 2019-2020 research grants is available online at cancerqld.org.au.

Pregnant

Ground-breaking Swedish IVF technology gives fresh hope to Gold Coast patients

A brand new weapon in the fight against infertility is showing promising results just six months into its Gold Coast trial.

Monash IVF is the only clinic in the city where patients can access the state of the art automated lab technology that could hold the key to more successful IVF treatments world-wide.

The next generation digital imaging technology monitors early stage embryo development and selection, providing 24 hour time-lapse videos to assess embryos around the clock.

The time-lapse machine combines an incubator, a microscope, a high resolution camera and computer software that captures focused images, automatically removing the need for embryos to be disturbed.

Senior Monash IVF Specialist Dr Kee Ong says the high definition image technology has increased embryo monitoring time by over 100,000 percent.

“Traditionally, embryos are removed from the incubator two days after fertilisation and then again after five days for observation under a microscope,” he said.

“Up until now, we’ve had no way of knowing how an embryo is progressing in between. We can now analyse more than 7200 minutes of development during the first five days compared with the standard 6-10 minutes.”

Each machine is capable of incubating 240 embryos at a time assisting up to 15 women simultaneously.

“We know the less an embryo is handled the better. We can now take a picture every 10 minutes, quickly identify embryos that are developing abnormally as well as the strongest embryo most likely to establish a pregnancy,” Dr Ong said.

“IVF is a journey that can take a severe emotional and financial toll on patients. We aim to achieve pregnancy in the shortest possible time frame and increased ability to choose the best embryo will get us there even quicker.

“It may be that all embryos are cultured this way in the future. Right now, we’re trialing the technology and gathering data to determine its full potential.”

Dr Ong says faster more accurate results leading to faster decision making for clinicians about treatment options is incredible news for every woman undergoing IVF or ICSI.

“This technology is most beneficial though for women who have experienced repeated IVF failure after embryo transfer; women whose embryos have failed to develop; those who have experienced repeated miscarriage and for women over 35 years of age,” Dr Ong said.

“The time-lapse technology provides us with a depth of information about embryo quality that simply wasn’t available before and we’re excited by the fresh hope we can now offer to women and couples struggling to conceive.

“We can now reduce handling, increase monitoring, allow for better embryo selection and potentially provide patients with the very first video of their miracle baby.

“It’s an exciting moment for reproductive medicine and it’s happening right here on the Gold Coast!”

Partnering with assisted reproduction pioneers, Monash IVF, Dr Kee Ong is located in Short Street Southport in the city’s only all-encompassing fertility treatment centre.

For the first time on the Gold Coast, patients can access consultation and early fertility treatment through to surgical procedures, IVF and allied health in one location.

“The highest pregnancy rates can only be achieved by a combination of excellent clinical management and an excellent laboratory,” Dr Ong said.

“Investing in ground-breaking technology and modern medicine while embracing alternative health treatments in a holistic approach really does give patients the very best chance to conceive.”

This is a sponsored editorial brought to you by Dr Kee Ong.

 

Stomach Pain Cramp

Ladies lunch to shine a light on Endometriosis

A disease affecting 1 in 10 women worldwide will be the topic of a discussion at an upcoming lunch at the Southport Yacht Club.

The Endometriosis Association (Qld) Inc. (QENDO) ladies lunch is set to take place on March 16 and will be hosted by 1029 Hot Tomato radio personality and fellow ‘endo sister’ Emily Jade O’Keeffe.

With March being global awareness month for endometriosis, the event is an opportunity to bring women together to help shine a light on the disease.

Twenty-nine-year-old Gold Coast local Stephanie Needs knows first hand the impact of endometriosis on daily life and will be there throw her support behind the cause.

“I was diagnosed 13 years ago at age 16 and since then I have six surgeries to remove endometriosis from my bowel, bladder, ovaries and cervix,” Stephanie said.

“As I get older my endometriosis has gotten worse by growing faster and my symptoms becoming much more intense. My moods have really fluctuated, impacting my relationships, career and quality of life.

“Endo, like many other chronic diseases, doesn’t just affect me; my personal relationships can also suffer. Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband who has done a lot of his own research to understand endo and how we can support me.

“When it comes to work, it is not uncommon for me to have at least one day per month off work due to extreme pain and cramping. It’s a challenge because you’re always trying to balance your health with your career ambitions.”

QENDO President Jessica Taylor said that while endometriosis is being spoken about more and more, thanks to people like Stephanie sharing their stories, there is still a long way to go.

“Over the past couple of years we’ve seen endo become a much bigger conversation as people are realising the true toll of this disease on the community. I say ‘community’ because it’s not just a ‘women’s issue’—endometriosis has a huge impact on not only on individuals and their families, but on our health system, our education system and businesses across the country,” Jessica said.

“For too long women have been suffering in silence or had their symptoms dismissed due to a lack of understanding of this disease. It has to stop.

“It’s fantastic to hear more people talking about endo and Endometriosis Queensland is working hard to keep this conversation front and centre.”

QENDO wants to remind people that endo is not the end, and that there is a range of support available. Find out more about endometriosis at qendo.org.au.

Jog Run

WATCH: Locals urged to sign up for Melanoma March

Gold Coast and Tweed locals will have the chance to march for a cure for melanoma as the annual Melanoma March returns to Coolangatta in 2019.

Starting from The Strand at Coolangatta on Sunday 3 March, members of the community can join as individuals, corporate teams, families or friendship groups to walk the 4km round circuit between The Strand and Point Danger to raise funds and awareness for a cure for melanoma.

Donna and Adam Argus from Murwillumbah will be taking part again in this year’s Melanoma March Coolangatta as Adam continues life-saving treatment for melanoma after being diagnosed at just 27 years of age and given 3 to 6 months to live.

Now, at 31, Adam has kicked his initial prognosis and has been able to live as normal a life as possible raising their young family thanks to the immunotherapy drug treatment, Keytruda.

myGC caught up with Donna to find out why she and Adam are encouraging locals to sign up and take part in the Melanoma March.

An initiative of the Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA), Melanoma March is their major annual fundraising campaign to support melanoma research for the 14,000 Australian diagnosed with melanoma each year.

The Coolangatta march has been one of the highest regional fundraisers in the country and The Strand Marketing Manager, Sarah Clasen said the centre was proud to host the community event for the fifth consecutive year.

“Melanoma March Coolangatta attracts around 300 participants each year, and over the past four years, our generous community has raised nearly $90,000 for melanoma research – which is helping to improve survival rates as a result of ongoing research projects,” she said.

Melanoma March Coolangatta will commence at The Strand on Marine Parade at 7:00am (QLD time) with registration from 6:30am (QLD time) and take a picturesque 4km loop along the foreshore of Coolangatta Beach, turning at Point Danger with participants encouraged to walk, march, stroll or even run the course. Registrations and donations for Melanoma March Coolangatta can be made online here: strandcoolangatta.com.au/