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Endometriosis: An Overview
by Endometriosis Research Centre

Endometriosis is a painful reproductive and immunological disease afflicting over 7 million women and teens in the United States alone (twice the number of Alzheimer's patients and seven times those with Parkinson's),with an estimated 70million more worldwide. Mistakenly believed by some to be a disease of “white career women who have delayed childbearing,” 1__ The disease can be so painful as to render a woman or teen unable to care for herself or her family, attend work, school or social functions or go about her normal routine. It can negatively affect every aspect of a woman's life—from her self-esteem andrelationships, to her capacity to bear children, to her ability to be a contributing member of society.

Often minimized simply as “painful periods,” the disease is a leading cause of female infertility, chronic pelvic pain and gynaecologic surgery, and accounts for more than 120,000 of the estimated 500,000 hysterectomies performed annually in the U.S.A. It is more prevalent than breast cancer, 2.Recent studies have also shown an elevated risk of certain cancers in women with endometriosis, as well as malignant changes within the disease itself. Findings of a study conducted on over 4,000 endometriosis patients in the United States and Canada even discovered links to other serious medical conditions, including a 9.8 percent incidence of melanoma, compared with 0.01 percent in the generalpopulation; a 26.9 percent incidence of breast cancer, compared with 0.1 percent in the general population; and an 8.5 percent incidence of ovarian cancer, compared with 0.04 percent in the general population. Women with endometriosis who participated in the survey also had a greater incidence of Meniere's disease and autoimmune conditions.

With endometriosis, tissue like that which lines the uterus(the endometrium) is found outside the womb in other areas of the body. Normally, the endometrium is shed each month through menses. 3 The implants still break down and bleed, resulting in internal bleeding, degeneration of blood and tissue shed from the growths, inflammation of surrounding areas and formation of scar tissue. Depending on the location of the growths, interference with thenormal function of the bowel, bladder, intestines and other areas of the pelvic cavity also occur. Endometriosis is not restricted to the pelvis: though rare, it has been found lodged in the skin, the lungs and even the brain.

Common endometriosis symptoms include:

• chronic or intermittent pelvic/abdominal pain

• painful periods

• infertility

• miscarriage(s)and/or ectopic pregnancy

• pain during intercourse (dyspareunia)

• allergies that tend to worsen around time of period

• family history of endometriosis or other autoimmune diseases

• astrointestinal upset and discomfort; “IBS” type symptoms at any time in cycle

Despite today's medical advances, researchers remain unsure as to what causes endometriosis, though recentresearch indicates that genetics, immune system dysfunction, and exposure to environmental toxins like Dioxin may be contributing factors to the development of the disease. There is no definitive cure for endometriosis, despite the continued propagation of such myths that hysterectomy, pregnancy and/or menopause “cure” the illness.

Invasive surgery remains the gold standard of diagnosis, andcurrent therapies continue to remain extremely limited, __4___ Though endometriosis is one of the most prevalent illnesses affecting society today, awareness is sorely lacking and disease research continues to remain significantly under funded. For instance, in fiscal year 2000, the National Institutes of Health planned to spend $16.5 billion on research. Of that funding, only $2.7 million...
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