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Trust hosts first hospital screening of game-changing endometriosis film with expert panel Q&A

13 October 2022

The exclusive screening of Below the Belt at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital was followed by an expert panel discussion to spur conversation, research, and care for this painful but common condition.

A new documentary style film, Below the Belt, that reveals the challenges and unmet needs of women living with endometriosis, was screened at a private viewing event at the MediCinema in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on Wednesday 12 October. This was only the second time the film has been shown in the UK, and the first screening in a hospital, which has inspired hospitals around the world to plan their own screenings of the film.   

This event was hosted by our Trust endometriosis leads Amer Raza, Consultant Gynaecologist and Endometriosis Surgeon, and Tom Bainton, Endometriosis Research and Minimally Invasive Surgery Fellow, with our charity CW+.  

The film was accompanied by talks by Roger Chinn, Chief Medical Officer for Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and esteemed guests Dame Lesley Regan, Women’s Health Ambassador for England and Former President of the Royal Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and Arvind Vashisht, Vice President of the British Society for Gynaecological Endoscopy.  

The audience enjoyed a surprise message from Executive Producer Hillary Clinton before the film began—a rallying cry for change on behalf of all those whose lives are affected by endometriosis. 

Hillary Clinton introduces the film

The film was followed by a discussion with our panel of experts. This Q&A session was opened to the public, including many endometriosis patients, to watch at home via livestream. The panel was hosted by Amer Raza and featured Shannon Cohn, Director of Below the Belt, Emma Cox, CEO of Endometriosis UK, Anita Mitra the Gynae Geek, writer and presenter Pippa Vosper, and author of Private Parts Eleanor Thom. The panel discussed important themes including research priorities and developments, endometriosis care, and wider strategies for healthcare for women and people assigned female at birth.   

This important film and important discussion at our event provided a relatable and personal perspective on a condition that impacts so many lives globally. It hopes to spark a change, raising awareness, supporting education about the condition, and putting the patient voice at the heart of endometriosis care.  

Emma Cox and Shannon Cohn were interviewed by BBC Radio London’s Eddie Nestor ahead of the screening, and had high praises for our Trust. Shannon said that this is the first screening of the film in a hospital has sparked real interest in the condition, and she continues her mission to raise awareness and demand change.  

Amer Raza, Lead Consultant for Endometriosis at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Endometriosis is a complex condition that can have a huge impact on a patient’s everyday life. We have a dedicated team at the Trust that is passionate about pioneering research to reduce the time between the onset of symptoms and diagnosis, and to better understand the challenges faced by patients, how we can support them, and how we can treat this condition.

“Where additional research is still needed, our team are working on improving non-invasive predictions of the condition, trialling new innovative treatments, and researching the links between endometriosis and inflammation in the womb.”    

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Executive Producer of Below the Belt, said: “Thanks to Shannon and everyone associated with this ground-breaking film. Endometriosis is an issue that has been overlooked, ignored and dismissed for so long. I hope these women's stories that Shannon has brought to the screen will cause a sea change in endometriosis. The statistics are overwhelming – more than 200 million women around the world suffer from endometriosis. It often takes up to eight doctors and specialists before women are diagnosed.   

“It's so maddening that so much of women’s health is still not given the attention it deserves. We need to do more to raise visibility of this disorder, to get the medical profession to buckle down and provide more support, and we need more federal action in the government. So thank you to everyone who shared their story, thanks to Shannon who produced this amazing look at a condition that needs to be dragged out of the shadows so that more women can be helped immediately."   

Shannon Cohn, Director of Below the Belt, said: “I had the idea that maybe an endometriosis film could actually be a much-needed catalysing tool for change in women's health.    

“Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has an active and developing endometriosis research programme, and I am proud to have their MediCinema as the location for the second UK screening of Below the Belt, with influential colleagues and guests in attendance to help raise awareness and front the change still needed to better support women with endometriosis.  

“It’s my hope that in sharing these stories, we can build a movement to transform the lives of patients with endometriosis. We want to lift the veil on the unjustness they experience, accelerate the search for a cure; and bring a greater level of compassion, awareness, and empathy to millions upon millions of patients and their loved ones wrestling with endometriosis.”

About the film 

Below the Belt follows a diverse group of women over a period of seven years, as we hear their stories of how they came to receive an endometriosis diagnosis and the toll this journey has taken on their lives, including symptoms they have experienced, the impact on their relationships, and adjustments they have had to make to live comfortably. These stories offer a glimpse into the reality of living with this condition, which affects over 1.5 million women living in the UK*.     

The film is directed by Shannon Cohn, an attorney and filmmaker who lives with endometriosis, and boasts Hillary Rodham Clinton, American diplomat, attorney, writer, and speaker, as an Executive Producer. 

Aside from physical symptoms, endometriosis can be a huge burden on people’s day to day lives. Recent research highlights that 81% of patients said their condition has impacted their mental health negatively**.   

As a disease that still has no effective treatment or cure, endometriosis affects a huge population, with at least one in nine women and girls suffering. The condition, in which the presence of the womb lining is found outside the womb, most commonly in the pelvis, can result in debilitating symptoms including pelvic pain (particularly during menstruation), gastrointestinal changes, urinary symptoms and often extreme fatigue.    

A large part of the problem is that there is little recognition of the symptoms among healthcare professionals, often leading to the disease left untreated for long periods of time. Research shows that diagnosis in the UK takes on average around eight years from the onset of symptoms. Many patients’ heath deteriorates within this time, and they are left feeling disregarded and unheard after numerous doctor and hospital visits.

* 1.5 million women in the UK have endometriosis—Endometriosis UK
**Research from All Party Parliamentary Group on Endometriosis Inquiry Report 2020