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What is Endometriosis?
 
Endometriosis is a disease in which tissue like the endometrium (the lining inside the uterus which builds up and sheds each month during menstruation) migrates outside the uterus to other areas of the body. These implants continue to break down and bleed; the result is internal bleeding, degeneration of blood and tissue shed from the growths, inflammation of the surrounding areas, and formation of painful adhesions and scar tissue.  Endometriosis has been documented in nearly every location of the body, including such remote and unusual sites as the brain, sciatic nerve, lungs and even skin.  Endometriosis can cause debilitating pain and infertility, and despite being one of the most common reasons for chronic pelvic pain, the disease remains widely misunderstood.
   
Is Endometriosis curable?
 
There is currently no absolute cure for Endometriosis, but there are several methods of treatment, which may alleviate some of the pain and symptoms associated with it.
   
Will Endometriosis kill me?
 
Not likely.  There have been documented cases of malignant chances associated with Endometriosis and higher risks of certain cancers in women with the disease, but Endometriosis itself is classified as a benign illness.
   
What causes Endometriosis?
 

There are several theories, none of which have been proven. Following is just a sample of common ones:

 
  • Retrograde menstruation (outdated theory which has been disproved by many experts)
 
  • Transplantation theory
 
  • atrogenic Transplantation
 
  • Coelomic Metaplasia
 
  • Heredity
 
  • Immunology
   
What are some symptoms of Endometriosis?
 
The amount of pain associated with the disease is not related to the extent or size of the implants. Some women with Endo have no symptoms, others have debilitating pain and even infertility. Some fairly common signs that may lead you to suspect Endo include - but are by no means limited to - any of the following:
 
  • chronic or intermittent pelvic pain
 
  • dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation is not normal!)
 
  • infertility
 
  • miscarriage(s) / ectopic (tubal) pregnancy
 
  • dyspareunia (pain associated with intercourse)
 
  • nausea / vomiting / abdominal cramping
 
  • diarrhea / constipation, particularly with menses
 
  • painful bowel movements
 
  • painful or burning urination
 
  • urinary frequency, retention, or urgency
 
Fatigue, chronic pain, allergies and immune system-related illnesses are also commonly reported complaints of women who have Endo.  It is quite possible to have some, all, or none of these symptoms.  Endo symptoms are varied and often nonspecific, so they can easily masquerade as several other conditions, including adenomyosis ("Endometriosis Interna"), appendicitis, ovarian cysts, bowel obstructions, colon cancer, diverticulitis, ectopic pregnancy, fibroid tumors, gonorrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ovarian cancer, and PID.
   
How is it diagnosed?
 
The only way a positive diagnosis of Endo can be made currently is via surgery, either a laparoscopy or the more invasive laparotomy, where biopsies are taken from suspected sites.  It can also be visualized during surgery if the surgeon knows what to look for.  Ultrasounds, MRIs, CT Scans and other diagnostic tests are not conclusive.  The ERC does not support "medical diagnoses," such as administering GnRH therapy prior to a surgical diagnosis.
   
How Can it be Managed?
 
The most effective thing an Endo patient can do is to find a specialist who treats the disease, such as an experienced gynecologist with a history of treating Endo patients, or if infertility is a concern, a reproductive endocrinologist. Form a partnership with this professional, in which you make informed decisions regarding your treatment plan together. Endo is a serious disease which requires serious treatment. Surgical Management includes hysterectomy and excision, fulguration, cauterization, ablation or other means of destroying implants. Medications such as gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists and synthetic hormones. Alternative medicine, acupuncture, herbal therapy, massage techniques, and dietary measures.  Additionally, while not a cure for the disease, exercise (as indicated and advised under the guidance of a trained professional who is familiar with your condition), good nutrition, and adopting a generally healthy lifestyle may significantly improve symptoms. 
   
Aren't hysterectomies or pregnancies the cure?
  No. At this time, there is no cure for this disease.
   
Can Endometriosis be prevented?
  There is no current manner of preventing Endometriosis, and it is not a disease which is "contracted" or "caused" by anything the patient did - nor is it contagious.  It is, however, highly suspected to be genetic.
   
I heard tampons and sex can prevent Endo.  There was a study done on this by a major institution and it was all over the news, so it must be true.
  False.  While it makes for flashy headlines, there is absolutely zero conclusive evidence that tampons or sexual activity will prevent Endometriosis.
   
I had a hysterectomy, so I am cured.  Right?
 
Wrong.  Hysterectomy treats Endometriosis ONLY on the organs that were removed.  Endometriosis implants also have no need for external sources of estrogen, so regardless of whether you are on HRT or not, if all disease was not removed, you may likely continue to experience symptoms. 
   
My doctor told me pregnancy cures Endometriosis, so I'm going to try to get pregnant.  Is this a good idea?
 
Only you and your partner know whether it's the right time in your life to become parents.  Pregnancy should never be prescribed as a treatment for an illness!  Pregnancy can keep symptoms at bay for some women, but it is not a cure.
   
Should I be worried that I won't be able to get pregnant?
 
While Endometriosis can cause infertility in approximately 35% of women with the disease, with the right treatment and partnership of the right healthcare professional, pregnancy can certainly be achieved by a woman with the disease.  See your healthcare provider if you have concerns, and request a copy of our "Infertility" presentation.
   
I have heard Endometriosis only affects white, "career women" who delay childbearing.  Is this true?
 
No.  Endometriosis knows no racial or socioeconomic boundaries.  Women of all ages, including teens and post-menopausal women, can suffer from Endometriosis.  There have even been a few men who were diagnosed with the disease!
   

Will I be able to have children?

It is estimated that 30-40% of women with endometriosis may have difficulties in becoming pregnant. This, however, means that 60-70% will have no problems. If fertility is a great wish, then please discuss your symptoms with your physician so that together you can develop the best treatment plan for you.
 

Is endometriosis cancer?

 
No. Endometriosis cysts are sometimes referred to as “beningn tumours”, because they may “behave similarly” to cancer, but endometriosis is not the same disease. In very rare cases, endometriotic implants has lead to cancer, but this is very very rare. Some research suggests that some women with endometriosis may be at a slightly higher risk of developing certain cancers but this is still controversial.
   
   


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