Endometriosis Center

Endometriosis Diagnosis

If you are suffering from any of the symptoms associated with endometriosis, a diagnosis can help identify potential cause(s). In fact, the longer that endometriosis goes undiagnosed, the more damage it can do. However, it can be difficult to diagnose endometriosis. The process can sometimes be drawn out and frustrating as symptoms worsen without a clear explanation. Sometimes doctors may insist that symptoms are normal, or may give an inaccurate diagnosis, such as pelvic inflammatory disease.

Very few doctors currently specialize in diagnosing and treating endometriosis. Ideally you should find a doctor who has thorough knowledge of endometriosis, including: surgical skills, current understanding of various treatments, access to the most modern surgical equipment and techniques, openness to complementary approaches, and compassion for what you are going through. If you don't feel your symptoms have been properly diagnosed, you always have the right to seek a second opinion. Health professionals who can evaluate endometriosis and help you manage the pain include:

  • Family medicine physicians
  • Gynecologists
  • Internists
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Physician assistants

Medical exams
A variety of medical exams and procedures may used to assess whether a woman has endometriosis, but the only reliable way to confirm the presence of the disease is by visually inspecting the abdominal organs by a procedure called a laparoscopy. Before a laparoscopy is performed, however, your doctor should complete a full gynecological evaluation, including your medical history. Other diagnostic methods for confirming or excluding endometriosis can include:

Blood tests - A membrane antigen called CA-125, also known as a biochemical marker, may be elevated in women with endometriosis, particularly those in the advanced stages of the disease. A blood test may be administered to check levels of CA-125 during diagnosis. Ca-125 is also used to detect several types of cancer: mostly ovarian, cancer, but also endometrium, fallopian tubes, lungs and gastrointestinal tract cancers.

Imaging tests - Imaging tests (e.g. pelvic ultrasound, vaginal ultrasound magnetic resonance imaging, CT scans) may be used to identify individual endometrial lesions, but they are not used to determine the extent of the disease. The implants are not easily identified using this method.

Laparoscopy - A laparoscopy is an exploratory procedure that allows the doctor to view the pelvic region and check for endometrial growths. The procedure involves making a small incision near the navel and inserting a laparoscope (a long, thin, lighted instrument) into the abdomen.

Physical examination - A physical exam used to diagnose endometriosis involves a pelvic examination. During a pelvic exam, the doctor will feel and look for abnormalities that are associated with endometriosis within the pelvis. Physical findings depend on the severity and location of the disease.

After your doctors confirms or diagnoses endometriosis, the condition is "staged". Stages of endometriosis are controversial among doctors.  Learn more about endometriosis stages here.

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