Mowry battled debilitating pain through her mid-20s and saw several doctors before being diagnosed with the chronic pelvic condition, in which the uterine lining begins growing outside of the uterus.
"The diagnosis wasn't the first time I realized something might be wrong," she writes. "I'd been experiencing extreme pelvic pain for years and went to several doctors. Each one would brush me off. 'Those are just really bad cramps, some women get them more severely.'" One doctor told her to try heat; another suggested exercise.
But Mowry, who remembers having to skip class in college and being in such severe pain she was unable to drive, knew it was something worse than regular period pain. Deep down, she said, "I always knew what I was feeling was more severe than just cramps… Even though multiple doctors told me not to worry about my symptoms, I knew in my gut this was serious."
Eventually, Mowry did get an answer. "Finally, in my late 20s, I ended up going to an incredible African American doctor who immediately knew what I had. She explained that endometriosis occurs when the tissue that belongs inside your uterus grows on the outside instead."
Over the next several years, Mowry went through multiple surgeries and struggled with infertility (a common complication of the condition), relying heavily on a strong support system and a change in diet.
Mowry explains that she chose to talk about her experience because she doesn't want women of color with the condition to feel like they're in it alone.
Looking back, Mowry says she felt isolated because no one in her community was talking about the issue. "I remembered how, even though I had an amazing support system, I often felt like something was wrong with me," she writes. "I thought I was alone because no one I knew personally had dealt with this. And then I realized: I'd never really seen someone African American in the public eye talking about endometriosis or their struggles with infertility. And when you don't know or see anyone else who looks like you talking about what you're going through, you feel alone and suffer in silence."
Mowry believes that raising awareness would enable black women to receive a diagnosis and, therefore, treatment sooner. "If more of us talked about it, more women might say: 'Hey, I've had those symptoms, let me go get checked,'" she writes. "Compared to other communities, it feels like there's a void when it comes to talking about healthy living and medicine from African American women, for African American women."
She also points to a lack of medical research on the issue. "It's very painful, and many African American women are often misdiagnosed because there's been less research done on the prevalence of endometriosis in our community."
Given the lack of research, it's difficult to know exactly how many black women with endometriosis are misdiagnosed. But there is evidence that their symptoms are taken less seriously in general.
"Endometriosis has always been out there, but what is coming to light now is how there is some racial bias in health care and so there may be under diagnosis in women of color," Oluwafunmilola Bada, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Howard University, director of labor and delivery at Howard University Hospital, and fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, tells SELF.
Some doctors may have the perception that endometriosis is a white woman's disease, Dr. Bada explains, promoting a racial bias in recognizing and diagnosing it in black women. "The symptoms present the same way, but the complaints that women of color bring to a provider aren’t taken as seriously sometimes, and they aren't properly diagnosed," she says.
And, unfortunately, this is consistent with trends of racial bias observed elsewhere in health care.
For example, a study of 222 white medical students and residents published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2016 found that many of them held false beliefs about biological differences between black and white people, such as the idea that black people have less sensitive nerve endings or have thicker skin than white people. The researchers also found that doctors who endorsed these incorrect ideas were likely to believe that black people are less sensitive to pain and, therefore, make inaccurate recommendations for the treatment of their pain.
And, as you might remember, earlier this year Serena Williams shared her own story of struggling to have her medical concerns taken seriously during her emergency C-section—shedding light](https://www.self.com/story/serena-williams-class-health-pregnancy-complications) on the fact that black women are more than three times as likely to die in childbirth as white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Above all, what we need is for women to have their experiences of pain and other symptoms taken seriously. "Endometriosis has no color," Dr. Bada says. "It's important for providers to know that the expectation for all women is that when you go to your healthcare providers, your symptoms and your pain are going to be taken seriously and that all possible diagnoses are going to be entertained."