Endometriosis may increase the risk of some rare types of ovarian cancer. Learn more about the link, the factors involved, and how it may affect you. During a woman’s period, tissue builds up and sheds if she doesn’t become pregnant. However, women with endometriosis develop tissue outside of the uterus, on the reproductive organs, and in the abdominal cavity. This tissue builds up and breaks
During a woman’s period, tissue builds up and sheds if she doesn’t become pregnant. However, women with endometriosis develop tissue outside of the uterus, on the reproductive organs, and in the abdominal cavity. This tissue builds up and breaks down during hormonal changes, resulting in bleeding in the pelvis that leads to inflammation, swelling, and scarring of normal tissue.
This article examines whether endometriosis can increase the risk of some types of ovarian cancer, the causes, and how to treat the condition.
Endometriosis affects approximately 2% to 10% of women in the United States. While endometriosis is considered a benign (noncancerous) disease, it has features similar to cancer, a mutation that appears the same as ovarian cancer, plus an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Some studies indicate there is a link between endometriosis and ovarian endometriomas, which are conditions that cause benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) tumor growth. Large studies have demonstrated the presence of ovarian carcinoma in 5% to 10% of cases of endometriosis, while others have shown that malignant transformation through atypical endometriosis.
However, one study indicated that the lifetime risk of ovarian cancer among women with endometriosis is fewer than two women in 100. This low-risk value can reassure women with endometriosis that their lifetime ovarian cancer risk is low.
Signs of clear cell ovarian cancer are similar to other ovarian cancers and may include bloating, eating less and feeling fuller, bowel habit changes, needing to urinate more/urgently, abdominal/pelvic/back pain. Common symptoms for endometrioid ovarian cancer may include a palpable mass, abdominal pain, abdominal distension, and irregular vaginal bleeding.
Currently there is no cure for endometriosis. However, there are several options to treat the accompanying pain and infertility issues. These include:
To treat infertility, your healthcare provider may suggest laparoscopic surgery to remove the tissue growth. However, in spite of studies indicating improved pregnancy rates after this type of surgery, success rates are unclear.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is another option to treat infertility. Hormones used in IVF have proven successful in treating infertility related to endometriosis. Other issues may occur, such as hormones used during IVF don’t cure endometriosis lesions, pain may also recur after pregnancy, and not all women with endometriosis are able to conceive with IVF. Researchers are investigating other hormone treatments for infertility caused by endometriosis.
It’s unclear what causes endometriosis, but researchers are examining a number of possible causes that include:
If you suspect you have symptoms of endometriosis, make an appointment with your healthcare provider. Discuss your symptoms to determine whether you have the condition.
Your healthcare provider will recommend a series of tests that include a pelvic exam to see if there are any large cysts and/or an imaging test to check for ovarian cysts (fluid-filled sacs). They may prescribe birth control pills to help alleviate the pain or recommend laparoscopic surgery to confirm 100% that you have endometriosis.
Endometriosis can be a painful condition when tissue builds up outside the uterus, around the reproductive organs, and inside the abdominal cavity. Some studies show a link between endometriosis and cancer, but the risk is very low.
Causes are not certain, but a number of factors may include menstrual flow issues, genetics, a weakened immune system, hormones, and more. Symptoms of endometriosis include pain, bleeding, and infertility. To treat the condition, your healthcare provider may prescribe pain medications or recommend over-the-counter NSAIDs, depending on the severity of your pain. Other options include surgery.
In the general female population, 1% to 3% of women may develop ovarian cancer. Less than 2% of women with endometriosis develop ovarian cancer.
While not a life-threatening condition, endometriosis can cause chronic abdominal pain, infertility, ovarian cysts, and if the condition worsens, you may need surgery.
Some rare types of ovarian cancer such as clear cell ovarian cancer and endometrioid ovarian cancer are more common in women with endometriosis.