What is cervical endometriosis?
Many people do not realize that they have cervical endometriosis because it usually causes no symptoms.
In this article, we look at what symptoms may be present, as well as the diagnostic process and treatment options. We also investigate the effect of this condition on fertility.
How common is it?
The cervix is the opening from the vagina to the uterus. Endometriosis of the cervix is relatively rare.
Endometriosis affects an estimated 6 to 10 percent of women, and it is especially prevalent in those of reproductive age.
Cervical endometriosis is rare. In a 2011 study that included more than 13,500 women with endometriosis, only 33 had growths on their cervixes.
Because there are often no symptoms, a person may be unaware that they have this condition until they receive a regular pelvic exam or an unusual Pap smear result.
A person with cervical endometriosis may notice the following:
- unusual vaginal discharge
- pelvic pain
- pain during intercourse
- bleeding after intercourse
- bleeding between menstrual periods
- heavy, prolonged or painful periods
To a doctor, the growths on the cervix may appear blue-black or reddish.
The medical community has yet to determine a cause of cervical endometriosis.
However, procedures to remove tissue and others that cause scarring may increase the likelihood of developing endometriosis.
Some of these procedures include:
- any involving loop excision
- laser treatments
Pregnancy and fertility
Cervical endometriosis may not affect a person's chances of conceiving.
Cervical endometriosis does not directly affect the chance of conceiving.
However, any scar tissue on the cervix can block semen from entering the uterus, though the likelihood of this happening is very low.
Endometriosis is more likely to impact fertility if growths are also present elsewhere in the pelvis, such as on the ovaries.
If a person is concerned, it may be a good idea to talk to a doctor about removing the growths.
If a doctor discovers growths on the cervix, they may order a Pap smear. If the result is abnormal, they may then perform a colposcopy.
This procedure involves using a binocular microscope to investigate the presence of lesions on the cervix, vagina, and vulva.
If there are lesions, a doctor may perform a biopsy. This will allow them to examine a sample of tissue under a microscope and ensure an accurate diagnosis.
If previous procedures have damaged the cervix, it may be harder for a doctor to remove the growths.
If no symptoms accompany endometriosis, a person may require no treatment. However, a doctor should still monitor the situation regularly.
Treatment is designed to eliminate growths. Two common procedures are:
- Superficial electrocauterization. A doctor will use electricity and heat to remove the endometrial growths.
- Large loop excision. This involves a tool with a wire loop that carries an electrical current. The doctor will remove the growths by passing the loop along the surface of the cervix, before sealing any wounds.
It is important to note that lesions may reappear after removal.
A biopsy may be required to diagnose cervical endometriosis accurately.
Cervical endometriosis is so rare that it may be misdiagnosed. Growths on the cervix can also indicate cervical cancer, but a doctor can reach a correct diagnosis with a biopsy or careful examination.
Other possible misdiagnoses of cervical endometriosis include:
- smooth muscle growths on the cervix
- inflammatory cysts
- cervical polyps
- melanoma, or skin cancer
Some conditions are linked with cervical endometriosis, including:
- stiffening of the cervical tissue
- infection with human papillomavirus, usually known as HPV
- bacterial infection
Cervical endometriosis is rare, and it shares characteristics with more common conditions, so it may be challenging to diagnose.
However, an accurate diagnosis is essential. If a person experiences symptoms that may indicate cervical endometriosis, they should see a doctor for a pelvic exam and further testing.
Treatment may not be necessary. However, if pain or discomfort occurs, removing growths should alleviate symptoms.