While endometriosis affects 1 out of every 10 women, only a fraction of those cases will ever be diagnosed. Many will be dismissed as having mere menstrual pain or, worse yet, some modern version of hysteria. - Lena Dunham
One in ten women have endometriosis—that’s more than 170 million women globally. For too long, women have been struggling to receive the care that they deserve and suffering without truly knowing what is plaguing their bodies. The disease often goes undiagnosed or is misdiagnosed, and 40% of women with endometriosis are infertile. Moreover, it takes women more than five separate physician visits and ten years to receive a correct diagnosis—largely because the only way to definitely diagnose endometriosis today is laparoscopic surgery, an invasive procedure that can cost over $5,000.
Recently, we learned of a company trying to address these challenges and improve the lives of women with the disease. DotLab, founded by Heather Bowerman and Dr. Hugh Taylor in 2016, has developed the first non-invasive diagnostic test for endometriosis. The test, validated in thousands of women to date, is highly accurate (sensitive and specific, in medical terms) and requires just a saliva sample. In three simple steps and with a prescription from their physician, women can order the test online for delivery right to their doorstep, mail their saliva sample back to the company’s lab, and be able to view their results online in a secure dashboard.
[The disease] feels like sharp, dagger pains and it’s almost instant…the rough part was that it took a long time to get a proper diagnosis. [I] went to three or four different doctors in the span of three days. - Julianne Hough
Endometriosis costs the US a whopping $119 billion annually, a significant portion of which is related to missed workdays and lost productivity. DotLab’s test, which will be available at a fraction of the price as laparoscopy, could significantly reduce these costs. Instead of being scared away by an invasive surgical procedure for diagnosis, women with endometriosis symptoms could be diagnosed in their first physician visit. Having a simple saliva test could also mean that women with infertility can more easily determine whether they have the disease and receive the right treatment to have their infertility corrected or improve their IVF success rate (endometriosis is the leading cause of implantation failure for patients undergoing IVF). In addition to initial diagnosis, the test can be used to determine response to treatment, including birth control pills and hormonal therapy, and to monitor the progression of the disease.
DotLab’s test was discovered at the Yale School of Medicine, where Dr. Taylor is Chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences. The team is currently ten people, and the response from the medical community to date has been very positive. Researchers and physicians have been seeking a non-invasive test with this kind of sensitivity and specificity for decades, and women have been eager to sign up for access. The test will soon be available by prescription as a replacement for laparoscopy.
Top 5 ways to get involved with DotLab’s mission and endometriosis
Whether you’ve been struggling with endometriosis, have painful or unexplained symptoms and want to get diagnosed, or simply want to be an advocate for the 176 million women worldwide affected by the disease, there are multiple ways to get involved with DotLab and our mission to offer breakthrough, actionable tests that lead to better health outcomes for women.
The team at DotLab has been working to make the first non-invasive test for endometriosis available for physicians to order for their patients as well as for women in need of the test to order it directly through our website. As we get ready for the launch of our product, scheduled for December 1st, 2017 in select areas, we encourage women to join our early access waitlist. Joining our early access waitlist will give you access to ordering the test as soon as it’s available in your area.
2. Talk to your physician about DotLab
DotLab has been engaging physicians, with a focus on ob-gyns and fertility doctors, in multiple ways. But we certainly need your help! Increasing the number of physicians who are aware of our test and familiar with how it works helps women who are candidates for the test get the access to it that they need. To prescribe the test, physicians should join our early access waitlist, which will give them the ability to order the test for their patients. This also helps physicians stay informed on our science and the latest results from our research and identify patients who could be suitable candidates.
3. Share your story
Your story matters. Women are already sharing their stories on our social media pages, and if you would like to share yours, we encourage you to reach out to us either via our Facebook page (you can comment on our posts or send us a private message) or through the contact form on our website. We would love to hear from you and learn more about how endometriosis has affected your journey. Sharing your story provides support for other women who are suffering with the disease and also allows us to better understand and address the needs of our customers.
4. Become a DotLab ambassador (a.k.a. a “DotDiva”)
We are excited to announce that we are kicking off a DotLab ambassador program! Once you join our early access waitlist, you will receive an email from DotLab that will provide you with more information on how you can apply to become a “DotDiva.” You can also take this short survey to express your interest in becoming a DotDiva and provide input as we kick off the program. As a DotDiva, you will have the opportunity to represent DotLab amongst the patient community and with patient advocacy groups, with the potential to make a lasting difference in the lives of many women who are sharing your journey.
5. Help spread the word
A non-invasive test could dramatically reduce the time from the onset of endometriosis symptoms to the right diagnosis. Furthermore, our test could provide a way to monitor disease progression, recurrence, and response to medical or surgical treatment. We encourage all women, whether or not DotLab ambassadors, to help spread the word— whether through social medial groups, networking events, or even informing close friends and family. Sharing and liking our Facebook page and directing women to our website would be a great start to spreading the word!