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What Is Endometriosis?
Definition of Endometriosis
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Is Endometriosis Cancer?

To immediately put your mind at rest – no, endometriosis is not cancer. You might hear or read about the label, 'benign tumors' being applied to endometriosis cysts, but this is mainly because they are similar to cancer, not because endometriosis is cancer.

There is some research that suggests that women with endometriosis may have a slightly increased risk of developing some types of cancer, but this is still largely controversial and would not apply to all women who have endometriosis. Generally, the cancer that has been associated with endometriosis, in some research, is epithelial ovarian cancer. The studies have identified an increased risk in women who have endometriosis and have never had a baby, with the risk being reduced if oral contraceptives have been taken.

This connection between epithelial ovarian cancer and endometriosis is not yet fully understood, although there are a couple of theories. One theory by scientists is that endometriosis may, in some way, be related to the environmental or genetic factors that increase the risk of cancer. Another theory is that the implanted endometrial tissue somehow transforms into cancerous cells.

Other medical research has found a slightly increased risk of ovarian cancer in women who have ovarian endometriosis, as well as a link between breast cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and thyroid cancer and endometriosis on other parts of the abdominal cavity or organs. Another link between cancer and endometriosis has emerged in the statistics covering infertility; uterine and ovarian cancers carry an increased risk of infertility with the possibility of getting these cancers decreasing by up to 20% with every successful pregnancy. Because infertility is also a symptom of endometriosis, there is an association with an increase in the risk of cancer.

A comparison is frequently made between endometriosis and female reproductive cancers like uterine and ovarian cancers. The reason for this is that these cancers and endometriosis are both represented by abnormal growths and the invasion of cells. Endometriosis is not a form of cancer, however, and the endometrial implants are not cancerous; they are benign.

Another similarity between cancers of the female reproductive system and endometriosis is the symptoms, causing the two diseases to be somehow linked. Symptoms of pelvic pain, heavy or irregular periods, painful urination or intercourse and infertility are common with endometriosis and cancers of the reproductive system in women.

Another area of confusion between endometriosis and cancer is one type of uterine cancer. Uterine cancer can be either cervical cancer or endometrial cancer. Because endometriosis and endometrial cancer sound so similar, many people confuse the two or believe that they are the same disease. This is not true; let's say it again – endometriosis is not cancer.

Endometrial cancer occurs in the lining of the uterus, which is called the endometrium. The cells of the endometrium are specialized to perform a specific task during ovulation, by preparing the lining for a possible pregnancy. These cells are exclusively female and are not normally found anywhere else in the body. Endometriosis occurs when some of these specialized cells migrate out of the uterus and attach themselves to other parts of the pelvic cavity, where they grow and thrive and continue to react to the same monthly hormonal stimulations as those in the endometrium.

In summary, endometriosis may have similar symptoms and present in a similar way as cancer, but endometrial implants are benign and are definitely not cancer. Some research has shown an increased risk of developing cancer in those women who have endometriosis, but this is very small and does not apply to all endometriosis patients.

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