Women with endometriosis 'living in limbo' due to Northern Ireland waiting times
Women living with endometriosis in Northern Ireland are living in limbo due to "shocking" waiting times, according to the head of the support charity Endometriosis UK.
Angela Style said women are not getting a good deal from the health service, with many waiting up to two years for an appointment with a consultant.
The total number of women waiting for a gynaecology outpatient appointment has more than doubled in seven years, according to Department of Health figures released to BBC News NI.
The condition causes tissue similar to the womb's lining to grow elsewhere in the body. It can also lead to infertility.
The number of women waiting for a gynaecology outpatient appointment rose from 7,700 in 2012 to more than 17,000 in March.
Patients with endometriosis are often given a procedure called laparoscopy or keyhole surgery, in which an incision is made in the abdomen and pelvis.
In March, 606 patients were waiting for that procedure, an increase from 221 in 2010.
A spokesperson on behalf of health and social care in Northern Ireland described the figures as 'unacceptable'.
They said it was "regrettable that some patients have to wait longer than they should for assessment or treatment at a gynaecology clinic".
"However, waiting times across all specialities have been increasing since 2014 as a result of wider financial pressures."
Sarah McCann from Belfast said she waited a decade to be told she has endometriosis, which happened after she paid for surgery privately in England.
The 28-year-old said she suffers from constant chronic pain in her bladder, bowel, vagina and lower back as well as heavy periods, fatigue and nausea.
She said she was told her physical pain was "normal" or a "woman's problem".
"It is a really serious thing and I think people really dismiss it," said Ms McCann.
"If someone had intervened when I was 18, I wouldn't have gone through the mental and physical anguish.
"Mentally it's had a massive impact on me, I think really because of the not knowing," she said.
"There were many days when I felt suicidal, that I can't go on."
She said her education, career and social life have suffered and her dreams of being a journalist have been put on hold.
"You have to have sick days. I constantly feel like I'm not a good enough employee," said Ms McCann.
"I'm always going to be less than the other people out there."
Belfast Telegraph Digital