Some of you may have read that endometriosis is associated with an increase in risk of certain cancers, in particular ovarian cancer. Whilst this is true, it was found that the risk only significantly applies to those with long standing endometriosis (i.e. between 10-15 years) and actual increase in risk is very small (only about 2-5%) after all, we can take some solace knowing that endometriosis is very common but ovarian cancer is not.
But while it may be saddening to hear you have an increased risk of certain cancers (even if the risk is small) perhaps the most important factor is the survive rate. The study I’ve referenced above found that women who have endometriosis and ovarian cancer tended to have their cancer diagnosed at a younger age, which may be beneficial as a good prognostic factor for cancer is early diagnosis.
The issue of survival of cancer in endometriosis patients is the focus of a recent study from Sweden. This study took 4,278 women with endometriosis and some form of malignancy and 41,831 women with malignancy but without endometriosis. The findings were quite encouraging as they found women with endometriosis had a better rate of survival for malignancies in general, but specifically better for breast and ovarian cancer. There was however, a poorer rate of survival for malignant melanoma (but remember, melanoma has excellent survival rates).
So although women with endometriosis have a slightly higher risk of developing ovarian cancer, it would seem women with endometriosis also have a better survival rate, funny how the universe balances out sometimes. Why might this be the case? I’m not completely sure, it may be that women with a chronic health condition like endometriosis are more aware of their health in general and may be more adept at detecting deviations from the norm that signal cancer, thus seeing their doctor sooner and getting treatment sooner. Of course women with endometriosis also see doctors more often, so the likelihood of incidentally discovering cancer earlier is also increased.