Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain

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Key people: Prof Peter Rogers, Prof Martin Healey, Dr Jane Girling, Dr Sarah Holdsworth-Carson, Dr Premila Paiva


Endometriosis is a common, estrogen-dependent condition associated with menstrual pain, chronic pelvic pain and infertility. The disorder is thought to affect seven to 10 per cent of women of reproductive age in Australia, increasing to 35-50 per cent of women with chronic pelvic pain and fertility problems. Medical treatment options have limited effectiveness, and surgical intervention may not prevent later recurrence. The personal and healthcare costs associated with endometriosis are high.  In an Australian report published in 2011, direct medical and surgical costs for endometriosis were estimated at $6 billion per annum for adult women (based on one in 10 adult women having endometriosis, $10,000 per woman). For adolescent girls, direct costs were estimated at $600 million. 

Endometriosis research

Endometriosis is a complex disease influenced by multiple genetic and environmental factors, however, the causes of the condition are largely unknown. The disorder has a heritable component and is common among female relatives. Large-scale genetic studies have been performed in Australia and Japan, and there is now information identifying variations at several genetic regions in the human genome that increase a woman’s risk of developing endometriosis.

Using uterine tissues collected at the Women’s, we are in the process of intensively investigating these genetic regions to confirm a link with endometriosis. This collaborative project brings together world-class research capabilities in genetics, genome-wide association studies (GWAS), genomics, endometrial biology, and clinical treatment of endometriosis.

We hope that our research will lead to improved understanding of endometriosis and pelvic pain, and that with the identification of novel targets we may be able to improve diagnosis and treatment and lead to precision medicine options (individualised treatment) for women with endometriosis and pelvic pain.

Patient participation - I have endometriosis, how can I be involved in the research?

If you are a patient attending one of the Women’s gynaecology clinics for a laparoscopy you may be asked by one of our research nurses to participate in our Endometriosis Study. Participation in this research is voluntary. Alternatively, you may contact one of our research nurses by email to find out if you are eligible to participate in the Endometriosis Study.

If you choose to participate in the Endometriosis Study, we will collect some information about you based on your medical records, as well as a series of questions that will be asked by a doctor or research nurse or in the form of a questionnaire. We will ask you to complete a second questionnaire approximately 12 months after your laparoscopy. At the time of your laparoscopy we will also collect a sample of blood and a sample of endometrium (the lining of your uterus) for laboratory-based studies. 

Events and news

August 2016:  600 Recruits
The Endometriosis Study started in 2012 at the Women’s and in August 2016 the team celebrated the recruitment of the 600th patient to the study. In celebrating such an achievement, the research team thanked all the staff from the contributing departments including Theatre, Day Surgery and Pathology and the booking team. The team also thanked its dedicated research nurses, Tracy Middleton, Ranita Charitra and Irene Bell (pictured) for their hard work. Most importantly, the many women who have volunteered for the study were acknowledged for their invaluable contributions. Read more on the News page.

May 2016: Health Victoria Newsletter
Researchers at the Women’s and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (University of Melbourne), Dr Jane Girling and Dr Sarah Holdsworth-Carson share their goal of finding better ways to diagnose and treat endometriosis in an article titled Early diagnosis the goal of research into endometriosis for the Victorian Government Health Information Health Victoria newsletter. Read more on the Health Victoria website.

March 2016:  Endometriosis Month 2016
In March, the researchers in the Endometriosis Study hosted a Yellow Morning Tea in honour of Endometriosis Awareness Month. It was also a celebration of all their collaborative work. Read more

May 2015: 1st EndoActive National Endometriosis Conference - Shared perspectives
EndoActive is a not-for-profit association committed to raising awareness of Endometriosis. The Shared Perspectives conference was held on 16 May 2015 at the University of Sydney.   Professor Peter Rogers was one of 13 invited specialist speakers.  View the Enoactive website.

May 2015: Planning for a family when you have endometriosis
Professor Peter Rogers was a guest on ABC radio’s Life Matters program, presented by Natasha Mitchell, to discuss the topic of fertility and endometriosis. The audio interview can be downloaded by following the prompts on the ABC website.

February 2015: Equal but not the same: a male bias reigns in medical research
Professor Peter Rogers wrote an article for The Conversation entitled, Equal but not the same: a male bias reigns in medical research. The piece discussed the “the lack of female representation in both preclinical studies and clinical trials”, which “has put women at greater risk of adverse events from medical interventions”. Read more on the Conversation website