Endometriosis: A Cause of Ovarian Cancer, Infertility
Endometriosis Awareness Month is celebrated every March to raise awareness of a disease affecting 10 percent of women of reproductive age globally. In Mexico, about 35 percent of women suffer from the disease. While there is no cure for endometriosis, early diagnosis can prevent its deathly consequences.
Endometriosis, the presence of endometrial tissue outside of the uterus, is a public health problem affecting women between 11 and 50 years of age. Endometriosis can lead to intestinal obstruction, ovarian cancer and infertility, among other health problems. “What is really dangerous is that women with this disease are three times more at risk of developing an ovarian cancer called clear cell carcinoma. Mortality of this type of cancer is high,” said Juan Jiménez, Academic, Medicine Faculty UNAM. In Mexico ovarian cancer represents 21 percent of gynecologic cancers, according to Mexico’s National Academy of Medicine.
Women who suffer from the disease might not know it due to its similarities to pre-menstrual symptoms (PMS). However, WHO emphasizes that in any case, it is not normal to experience distressing and life-altering pelvic pain.
Genetics, retrograde menstruation and cellular metaplasia can lead to endometriosis. Smoking and obesity also increase the risk of suffering the disease, said Oliver Cruz, Coordinator, National Institute of Perinatology. However, the exact cause of endometriosis has not been identified yet.
Nonetheless, early diagnosis can help patients to manage the disease and avert high risk complications. “About 90 percent of women who suffer from infertility caused by endometriosis can get pregnant with reproductive treatments,” said Cruz. According to WHO, endometriosis requires a multidisciplinary treatment involving different specialists apart from gynecologists. Endometriosis treatment can range from medication to surgery.
In Mexico, there is not enough information nor campaigns about endometriosis, found research by Universidad Iberoamericana. The Ministry of Health has a Specific Action Program on Reproductive and Sexual Health for 2020-2024 that aims to generate visibility of women’s sexual and reproductive health issues. Although this program promotes awareness of women’s health, it does not mention endometriosis specifically. Seeing the limited awareness of the disease, in 2019, Mexico’s Congress exhorted the Ministry of Health to implement endometriosis campaigns and register the number of girls and women who suffer the disease to promote scientific research and alliances between the private and public sectors.
Due to the social, public and economic impacts of endometriosis, WHO invites the public and private sector to collaborate in the prevention of the disease by addressing endometriosis through promotion and adoption of effective policies.