Endometriosis is a noncancerous condition that often affects the ovaries. It may slightly increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer later in life.
Endometriosis and ovarian cancer are conditions that affect your reproductive organs.
Endometriosis typically affects people during their reproductive years. Ovarian cancer is more likely to develop in people who are middle aged or older.
Some studies suggest that endometriosis might increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer later in life.
This article explores current research into the connection between endometriosis and ovarian cancer.
Research suggests that people with endometriosis might have a slightly higher risk of ovarian cancer than people without it.
But studies have shown inconsistent results, and much remains unknown.
So, while the risk may be slightly increased, it’s still relatively low overall.
It’s not clear why people with endometriosis are at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer, but some studies suggest that endometrial tissue growing on the ovaries may have the potential to become cancerous. This is known as endometriosis-associated ovarian cancer (EAOC).
EAOC is generally described as ovarian cancer that involves both endometrial and cancerous cells in your ovaries. Ovarian endometrioid carcinoma is the most common type of ovarian cancer seen in people with EAOC.
According to a 2022 review, the increased risk of ovarian cancer in people with endometriosis is likely due to genetic and epigenetic factors that change the way that certain genes are expressed.
Endometriosis vs. ovarian cancer
Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue, which is supposed to grow inside your uterus, grows in places outside your uterus. Patches of endometriosis can grow on your ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other parts of your pelvic cavity.
Symptoms can include:
- pain in your abdomen, pelvic area, or lower back
- pain that gets worse before or during your period
- heavy periods
- pain during and after sexual intercourse
- pain during urination or bowel movements
- vaginal bleeding between periods (spotting)
Ovarian cancer happens when there are cancerous growths in your ovaries, the organs that produce eggs.
Early stage ovarian cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms, making it hard to detect. Symptoms usually appear suddenly and can include:
- pain in your abdomen, pelvic area, or lower back
- pain during sexual intercourse
- vaginal bleeding
- an urgent need to pee
- weight gain or loss
According to the
- Age: People who are middle aged or older are more likely to develop ovarian cancer.
- Ethnic background: Ovarian cancer is more common in people of Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jewish descent.
- Genetic factors: People who have BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations are at an increased risk.
- Hormone use: Hormone replacement therapy has been associated with a slightly
increased riskof ovarian cancer in postmenopausal women.
- Other cancers: People who have had cancer in their breasts, uterus, or colon are at an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
- Reproductive history: People who have never given birth and those who have had difficulty getting pregnant may be at an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
- Other factors: Additional risk factors that have been linked to ovarian cancer include being younger when you get your period for the first time, having a high body mass index (BMI), and applying talcum powder to the genital region.
It’s not clear whether the risks are different for people with endometriosis.
The authors of a study with more than 22,000 participants reported that people who had endometriosis and people who didn’t both experienced comparable risk factors, with slight differences.
They found that factors such as BMI, hormone therapy, and talcum powder application in the genital region might be more significant in the development of ovarian cancer for people who also have endometriosis, but more research needs to be done to understand the connection.
Symptoms for both endometriosis and ovarian cancer can vary a lot from one person to the next. Moreover, there isn’t a simple, noninvasive test to screen for either condition. In both cases, this can make getting a diagnosis challenging.
In both cases, a doctor or healthcare professional will ask you to describe your symptoms and medical history in detail. They’ll conduct a physical examination. From there, they may order additional tests to develop a diagnosis.
Tests for endometriosis
Doctors may use one or more of the following tests and evaluations to help diagnose endometriosis:
What should I do if I think I have ovarian cancer?
Talk with a primary care doctor or gynecologist if you’re experiencing new or persistent symptoms. If you’re worried about ovarian cancer, tell a doctor why so they can address your concerns.
Tests for ovarian cancer
Doctors may use one or more of the following tests to help them diagnose and stage your ovarian cancer:
It’s not possible to prevent ovarian cancer, but certain lifestyle factors are associated with a reduced risk. These include:
- breastfeeding for more than a year
- giving birth at least once
- medical procedures such as tubal ligation, oophorectomy (removal of your ovaries), and hysterectomy (removal of your uterus)
- using oral contraceptive pills for 5 years or longer
Keep in mind that there are risks and benefits to each choice listed above and that it’s possible to do all of the things listed above and still get ovarian cancer.
If you’re concerned about your risk of ovarian cancer, it’s important to discuss your concerns with a healthcare professional.
Endometriosis is a condition that can cause painful periods in people of reproductive age. Ovarian cancer, on the other hand, most often develops in older individuals. It can cause symptoms that sometimes resemble those of endometriosis.
People who have endometriosis may be at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer. The link between the two conditions isn’t well understood, but research suggests that endometrial tissue that grows outside of your uterus could become cancerous.