Women's Health

Do I Have an Increased Risk of Developing Ovarian Cancer if I Have Endometriosis?

Do I Have an Increased Risk of Developing Ovarian Cancer if I Have Endometriosis?

Key Takeaways

  • Endometriosis is a painful disease which affects the tissues lining the inner side of the uterus called endometrium. 
  • Endometriosis affects 10% to 15% of women in their reproductive age. 
  • Women suffering from endometriosis have an increased risk of ovarian cancer

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a painful disease that affects the tissues lining the inner side of the uterus, which is called endometrium. The tissue is formed outside of the uterus and causes pelvic pain. Endometriosis is a common benign disorder that affects about 10% to 15% women in their reproductive age.

What is ovarian cancer?

It is a malignant medical condition that affects the ovaries. Cancer is a formation of abnormal cells that spread to the whole body.

Signs and symptoms of endometriosis and ovarian cancer

Endometriosis signs and symptoms include pelvic pain during menstruation, painful intercourse, infertility, painful urination, and painful bowel movements. On the other hand, ovarian cancer does not show symptoms in its early stages. In advanced stages, it can cause pain, fullness, bloating, changes in eating habits, and changes in bowel movements.

Similarities between endometriosis and ovarian cancer

Although endometriosis is a benign disease, it has some features similar to ovarian cancer, like a development of foci at a distance by the process of proliferation, attachment, and invasion of the glandular tissue to other organs.  Both endometriosis and ovarian cancer are related to estrogen. Cells may divide abnormally in response to estrogen causing cancer. In endometriosis an abnormal endometrial tissue formation in the other parts of the  body, except uterus in response to estrogen too. Both have the same symptoms like pelvic pain, difficulty in conceiving and irregular bleeding. The risk factors for both include not having children, abnormal menstrual cycle, pelvic infection history, or uterine abnormalities.

Sampson was the first researcher to find increased risk of ovarian cancer in patients diagnosed with endometriosis. New research has shown the increased risk of ovarian cancer with endometriosis.  It is believed that women with endometriosis have a three times higher risk developing ovarian cancer (clear cells type), which is 5% of all women with ovarian cancer.

In a study of 70,000 women with endometriosis, 43% of them were found to have ovarian cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It was also found that women with endometriosis in the ovary region were at higher risk to develop ovarian cancer.

Endometriosis if treated or left untreated can turn into ovarian cancer. But it should be kept in mind that not all the women will develop ovarian cancer. There are two types of ovarian cancer, endometrial ovarian cancer and clear cell ovarian cancer. Researchers are not able to find what causes some women to develop endometrial ovarian cancer and some clear cell ovarian cancer.

Hormonal treatment of endometriosis can help to reduce its symptoms. There are chances that it can lower the risks of both types of cancers.

Can ovarian cancer and endometriosis be prevented?

This information should be taken for warning purpose. You should not get frightened. Rather, try to be aware of the early symptoms of ovarian cancer like abdominal and pelvic pain and bloating. You should immediately consult a doctor if you are finding such symptoms.

Follow the instructions for prevention of ovarian cancer. Women with diagnosed endometriosis should see their gynecologist on the regular basis. Regular gynecologist examinations will help prevent ovarian cancer. 

Is there an increased risk of ovarian cancer?

Women diagnosed with endometriosis are at risk for developing ovarian cancer.