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Complications & risks

Depending on the location of your endometrial tissue, endometriosis can also affect other organs such as your ovaries, bladder and bowel. Often women have questions about the effect of endometriosis on other health matters like menopause. If you are concerned about the complications that may arise from endometriosis, knowing where to go for help is important.

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Can endometriosis affect the bowel?

Endometriosis may spread to the outside/inside of the bowel, causing pain and bleeding when you have sex or open your bowels. Ultrasound or MRI may help to make this diagnosis and locate the disease. There are a number of different treatment options and it is not essential that the disease is treated, even if it is found.

2019 jh endometriosis uterus diagram

Can endometriosis lead to cancer?

There is no evidence that endometriosis causes cancer. The number of women with cancer (all types of cancer) is similar in a group of women with endometriosis as compared to a group of women without endometriosis. Some cancers, such as ovarian cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, are slightly more common in women with endometriosis.[1].

Women who have endometriosis do not need to have their ovaries removed at menopause unless there are other risk factors (such as family history of ovarian cancer or other types of cancer). If the ovaries of all women who had endometriosis at menopause were removed, with the aim of reducing the risk of ovarian cancer, more deaths would occur due to other diseases such as heart disease or complications related to bone fracture.

There is currently no screening for ovarian cancer. Discuss your risk factors with your doctor.

Long-term health issues

Recent studies suggest that women with endometriosis have increased risks of abnormal cholesterol levels and heart disease. These are highest in women who are younger than 40.[2] Some of these risks increase after hysterectomy and removal of both ovaries for endometriosis treatment.

It is important to have regular health checks with your healthcare provider.

What happens at menopause if you have endometriosis?

Menopause for women with endometriosis is the same as for women who do not have endometriosis. However, the menopause experience is individual and ranges from no symptoms to severe symptoms.

If you had a surgical menopause – your ovaries were removed, with or without your uterus – then menopause symptoms will be experienced unless you start menopausal hormone herapy, or MHT (formerly called hormone replacement therapy, or HRT) soon after the surgery.

Usually, endometriosis does go away after menopause. However, it can come back when you are on MHT, but this is rare. Even more rarely, it can return spontaneously.

What to do if you are concerned

If you are worried about any aspect of endometriosis or are worried that endometriosis may affect a part of your body or your future health, talk to your doctor.



This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at May 2019.

References

  • 1
    Dunselman GA, Vermeulen N, Becker C, Calhaz-Jorge C, D'Hooghe T, De Bie B et al. ESHRE guidelines: management of women with endometriosis. Hum Reprod. 2014;29(3):400–12.
  • 2
    Melo AS, Rosa-e-Silva JC, Rosa-e-Silva AC, Poli-Neto OB, Ferriani RA, Vieira CS. Unfavourable lipid profile in women with endometriosis. Fertil Steril. 2010 May;93(7):2433–6.
  • 3
    Mu F, Rich-Edwards J, Rimm EB, Spiegelman D, Missmer SA. Endometriosis and risk of coronary heart disease. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2016;9(3):257–64.
Last updated: 26 November 2019 | Last reviewed: 15 May 2019

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