There are ways to treat endometriosis
Some doctors still believe that the only way to treat endometriosis is through a hysterectomy—complete removal of the uterus and potentially other female sex organs such as the cervix, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. However, Dr. Sinervo points out that endometriosis is not always confined to these organs. “The pain and symptoms arising from the disease are often not confined just to menstruation, in which case simply removing the uterus and stopping periods are not effective treatments,” he explains. “In fact, there have been many reports of endometriosis persisting after hysterectomy—even worsening. And we routinely treat patients who have had removal of their reproductive organs only to have significant disease left behind.”
That removing a woman’s reproductive organs can cure endometriosis is just one of the common hysterectomy myths. The options available for women suffering from endometriosis range from drug and hormonal therapies to specific types of minimally invasive operations, such as excision surgery.
Less extreme methods can offer long-term benefits
“It is not always obvious how deep infiltration of endometriosis may be,” explains Steve Vasilev, MD, gynecologic oncologist and medical director of Integrative Gynecologic Oncology at Providence Saint John’s Health Center and a professor at John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, California. With a technique known as excision surgery, the surgeon makes a small incision and then removes endometriotic tissue; Dr. Vasilev explains that this gives a properly trained surgeon a better chance of getting all the problematic growth. He points out that recent studies suggest excisional surgery may reduce pain associated with intercourse and bowel movements, as well as chronic pelvic pain.
Unfortunately, insurance coverage can be an issue: “Insurance carriers may be reticent to pay,” Dr. Vasilev explains. However, if a surgeon finds a suspicious pelvic mass, insurers may cover the cost. Here are 50 more secrets most surgeons won’t tell you.
Endometriosis isn’t a guarantee of infertility
Many patients are afraid they will never be able to carry a child—but this isn’t always true, according to Dr. Cook. “If a surgery is done properly, it will help increase the chances of getting pregnant for many years following the surgery,” he says. “Once the endometriosis is removed, a woman will be more likely to become pregnant once she tries, assuming no other factors are affecting her fertility.” This is just one of the things all women need to know about miscarriage and fertility.