(CBS) Leading doctors are spreading the word that many young girls are suffering from a gynecological condition commonly associated with infertility. Most don't even know they have it. High school senior Valerie Berrin splits her time between softball and homework. But, life wasn't always so typical for the teen. When she was 8-years-old, she started suffering terrible pain. "It was almost like a rock was sitting on my stomach,” Berrin said. “Sometimes it was sharp, very sharp."
The pain was so chronic, Berrin and her mom Fran traveled to dozens of specialists across the country. No one could figure out the problem. "I had colonoscopies and endoscopies," Berrin said. "As a mom, I felt it was very frustrated," Fran Berrin said.
Fran says there was a series of misdiagnoses. Then, finally, an answer. Valerie had a gynecological condition called endometriosis--years before she even got her first period. "I was overwhelmed at the fact that this very young girl was now a gynecological endometriosis patient," Fran Berrin said. The condition occurs when tissue that lines the uterine walls grows outside the uterus. It can cause serious pain and infertility. An estimated five and a half million women have it. But, leading specialists warn symptoms can start as young as 12-years-old or sooner. "It can occur in adolescence very, very early with the onset of puberty, before menstruation when estrogen levels are rising," reproductive endocrinologist Dr. John Rock said. Research shows 47 percent of adolescent females suffering with pelvic pain have endometriosis. But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say many of those cases go undiagnosed."Adolescents may be cared for by their pediatrician, adolescent health care provider, family practitioner,” pediatric gynecologist Dr. Marc Laufer said. “Not all of them are familiar with endometriosis." It's also tough to detect in any patient--it can't be seen through an x-ray or MRI. "The best way to make a diagnosis is through a laparoscopy, where you actually look in through the pelvis and see the implants and the disease," Rock said. There are warning signs, like pelvic discomfort. Some teens may also have frequent urination, diarrhea or constipation. "If it's interfering with her life, then I think it's important to further evaluate," Laufer said. Valerie Berrin had surgery to remove her disease. She's speaking out in the hopes that other young girls in pain will get help. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends teenage girls first visit an ObGyn between 13-years-old and 15-years-old.