Endometriosis is a fairly common gynecological disorder that can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms such as pelvic pain, menstrual problems, and infertility. However, a new study has also found cancer-causing gene mutations in some women with endometriosis, suggesting that the condition may be even more serious than previously known.
In a study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from Canada found cancer-causing gene mutations in the pelvic lesions of women with endometriosis, The Vancouver Sun reported. Although a low number of endometriosis cases are linked to ovarian cancer, the condition is typically considered to be non cancerous.The new findings suggests that doctors may now have to take a new approach to this condition.
“Finding these mutations in non-cancer conditions is largely uncharted territory,” said co-author Michael Anglesio, The Vancouver Sun reported. “It’s not just inflammation around endometrial tissue in the wrong place, it’s that there are genetic changes hardwired into the biology of the disorder.”
For the study, the Vancouver team used gene-sequencing technology to analyze tissue from the lining of the womb of 39 women living in Vancouver, New York, and Japan. The team specifically looked at a form of endometriosis called deep-infiltrating endometriosis. Results showed that most of the samples had either one or multiple gene mutations. These findings are especially unnerving as endometritis is estimated to affect around one in 10 women.
The team report that because these lesions caused by endometriosis feed on estrogen, progestin-only pills or surgical removal of the lesions are recommended as treatment.
According to the Medicine Net, endometriosis occurs when cells on the outside of the uterus, called endometrial cells, begin to grow abnormally. The exact cause of the condition is not clear, although the condition is fairly more common in women who experience infertility. Some women have no symptoms, but for those who do, common symptoms may include pelvic pain during menstruation, intercouse, or during a bowel movement or urination. Infertility may also be a symptom of the condition.
What’s more endometriosis is not limited to the female reproductive tract, and can also occur in the liver, brain, lung, and in old surgical scars, Medicine Net reported.
Though worrying, the results are important as they may help researchers better understand how to treat this condition.
“These mutations are a first step in understanding the breadth of symptoms and outcomes that affect every patient differently,” added Anglesio.” Finally, we have a roadmap to find the right treatments.”
Not only does the condition increase a woman’s risk of experiencing infertility, increases a woman’s risk of other pregnancy problems such as miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy ].
Source: Anglesio MS, Papadopoulos N, Ayhan A, et al. Cancer-Associated Mutations in Endometriosis without Cancer. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2017