The link between endometriosis and ovarian cancer is well recognized and has perplexed physicians for a long time. Epidemiological studies have suggested a specific link with endometrioid and clear-cell ovarian cancers but no firm evidence established endometriosis as an ovarian cancer precursor lesion.
Although rare, another type of cancer “endometriosis-associated adenocarcinoma” can develop later in life in women who have had endometriosis.
On average, it takes eight years for a woman in the UK to be diagnosed with endometriosis, meaning sufferers are left questioning their own body and mind, knowing something is not right. The issue is also an economic one with the condition costing the UK economy £8.2 billion a year in treatment, loss of work and healthcare costs.
Endometriosis occurs in 7-10% of all women, and is often associated with chronic pelvic pain and infertility. It is not a reason to have a hysterectomy unless you have significant symptoms that are unresponsive to less invasive therapies, and the uterus itself is causing pain or bleeding problems. But endometriosis can be painful in premenopausal women and should be treated.
Depending on the severity of your endometriosis, treatment options may include:-
- Hormonal therapies, such as birth control pills, which help control the hormones that cause a buildup of endometrial tissue — and birth control pills are associated with a decrease in ovarian cancer risk.
- Conservative surgery to remove endometrial growths without removing your reproductive organs — with laparoscopic surgery in most cases, or traditional abdominal surgery in more-severe cases.
The UK Government has just opened an inquiry to investigate the challenges faced by endometriosis sufferers. It is hoped this will mean that comprehensive screening plans to aid in the early detection and prevention of specific types of ovarian cancer in women with endometriosis will be rolled out. These should include:-
- Identification of all women with endometriosis either surgically documented or self-reported by symptoms;
- Careful follow up of ovarian presumed endometriomas by imaging studies, perhaps by MRI, for any characteristics changes such as mural formation;
- Complete surgical resection of all endometriotic foci in women undergoing surgical treatment and tissue evaluation of ovarian endometriomas to rule out malignancy;
- Hormonal treatment aimed at reducing the risk of cancer in high-risk women.
It is likely that the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) will then establish national guidelines for NHS organisations to follow, although this may be many years from now. Until then, GP and Hospital practice is unlikely to change and unnecessary suffering will continue to wreak havoc in otherwise healthy women’s lives.
Should your health have been adversely affected by a delayed diagnosis or other medical mistake, then we are here to help. Lysander Law’s specialist medical negligence solicitors provide a ‘No Win, No Fee’ agreement for their legal fees and offer an expert, professional and personal service for all of their clients. Contact us today for a no obligation chat.