Abnormal Tissue Growth Outside of the Uterus

Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue and cells that resemble the lining of the uterus grow abnormally outside of the uterus. Normal cells in the uterus respond to hormones produced by the ovaries, which tell them to grow and then shed every month during a menses. Because the abnormal tissue is made from similar cells, it also responds to the same hormones - only outside of the uterus - causing inflammation and pelvic pain.

The cause of endometriosis is still being researched. One thought is that normal cells that line the surface of various organs change, in response to certain chemical signals, into cells similar to uterine tissue. Researchers also believe the immune system plays a role in the condition.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

With endometriosis, the abnormal tissue can grow in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bowel, bladder, rectum, appendix and diaphragm. It can also grow in the lining of your pelvic area and other areas of your body. This can lead to a wide range of symptoms and other conditions, including:

  • Chronic pain in the pelvis or lower abdomen
  • Painful or heavy periods
  • Pain during sex
  • Lower back pain
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Painful urination
  • Abdominal adhesions (when pelvic tissue or organs stick together)
  • Interstitial cystitis (chronic bladder pressure and pain)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome

These symptoms and conditions can be severe, decreasing your quality of life.

While diagnosing endometriosis can be challenging, it may help you manage your symptoms more effectively than if you didn’t seek medical care. To diagnose and treat the condition, your doctor at Penn State Health will need to determine what stage the disease is in. This usually requires laparoscopic surgery as most endometriosis lesions are too small to be seen on imaging tests like ultrasound, MRI or CT scan.

Though there is no cure for endometriosis, your symptoms can be cared for with medication or surgery with an accurate diagnosis. The goal of treatment is to improve your symptoms so you can live your life well.

Related Services & Treatments

Meet the Team

Megan Cassell, RN

Megan Cassell

Wanda Dougherty LPN

Wanda Dougherty LPN

Anessa Herrera, Surgery Scheduler

Anessa Herrera Surgery Scheduler

Carolyn Low, Physical Therapist

Carolyn Low Physical Therapist

Rachel Hohman, Physical Therapist

Rachel Hohman Physical Therapist

Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Designated Center of Excellence

The Penn State Health Center for Endometriosis and Female Pelvic Pain has been recognized regionally as a Center of Excellence for outstanding care. We achieved this through our commitment to innovative surgical and clinical treatments, ongoing provider education and clinical research. Together, these endeavors produce the highest quality endometriosis care in the region.

A Team of Endometriosis Surgery Specialists

Severe cases of endometriosis require surgery, and effective surgical treatment requires a high degree of skill and experience. Our team of surgeons are specialists in their field. With additional training and years of experience treating complex cases of endometriosis, their expertise is vital for producing the best possible outcomes for patients.

A Comprehensive, Multidisciplinary Team Approach

Endometriosis requires comprehensive treatment that goes beyond just surgical management. We are a team of many different medical and surgical specialists who collaborate to provide you with the most complete, skilled care. This also means working with your primary care provider and other medical professionals to ensure continuity of treatment. Through this multidisciplinary team approach, we combine our knowledge to find the best way to manage your condition.

Advancing Care Through Research

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, our team of minimally invasive gynecologic surgery specialists conducts ongoing research to improve our understanding of endometriosis and how it’s treated. Through their research, we hope to find better ways to treat the condition so patients can live pain-free.

Support Groups

Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other patients and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.

Learn more about support groups offered