Dancers' pain puts spotlight on endometriosis

Nov. 27--Two "Dancing With the Stars" dancers are spotlighting a condition that can cause infertility and chronic pain and from which as many as 10 percent of women suffer in silence.

Julianne Hough, the two-time winner as a professional dancer on the show, made headlines by telling the world she had endometriosis. She inspired fellow dancer Lacey Schwimmer to get checked since she had been experiencing similar pain.

"Endometriosis is a common thing for women," Hough told the Fancast blog. "I was like, 'Thanks, mom, for giving me my great life -- and endometriosis.' I said that jokingly."

Hough's mother and sister both had endometriosis.

"You can see genetics plays a big part," Hough said. "I guess my brother Derek (also a 'Dancing' professional) is the only sibling in the family who doesn't have to worry about having his ovaries checked," Hough said.

While Hough opted for a surgical solution for her endometriosis, Schwimmer opted for a less invasive hormonal treatment.

Dr. LaTasha Craig, an OU Physicians endocrinologist, said surgery and hormonal treatments are the only two treatments for endometriosis.

What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a common gynecologic problem of reproductive-age women in which growths, called implants, attach to a woman's reproductive organs and cause scar tissue to form. They're not life-threatening, and the growths can cause severe pain or none at all. They can cause infertility by blocking the passage of eggs and preventing the meeting of sperm and egg.

Since doctors can't diagnose endometriosis through a Pap smear or internal exam, if they suspect endometriosis, the only way to diagnose it is through surgery. But Craig recommends surgery only in cases where the suspected endometriosis causes unmanageable pain or problems in a woman's daily life. For many women, endometriosis causes no severe problems and can be tolerated without surgery or drugs.

In Hough's case, laproscopic surgery identified the disease, and doctors were able to remove the growths.

And for less severe cases of suspected endometriosis, such as Schwimmer's, hormonal therapy using birth-control drugs can control the growth of endometriosis, easing the cramping and possibly lessening the chance for infertility.


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