Endometriosis is a disease in which tissue from the uterine lining, the endometrium, somehow grows in other parts of the body, such as the abdomen, reproductive organs and elsewhere.

The displaced endometrial tissue behaves just the way it would if it were in the uterus. That means it breaks down at the time of menstruation. But instead of exiting the body as menstrual flow, it can cause pain, hemorrhaging, inflammation and other symptoms.

The symptoms can be excruciating and severe. Long-term effects sometimes include infertility.

There are probably multiple causes of endometriosis, but they remain a mystery. A nonprofit group, The Endometriosis Association, suspects there may be a link between the chemical dioxin and endometriosis, but no causation has been proven.

Endometriosis is probably not a new disease, but it was pretty much unknown before World War II. Just 20 years ago, it was not uncommon for doctors to treat endometriosis with a radical hysterectomy.

Today, treatments have advanced greatly, although there is still no real cure for this disease.

Pain medications and hormone therapies may be tried prior to or in addition to surgery. When surgery is necessary, it often involves a minimally invasive technique called laparoscopy or a another procedure called laparotomy, which is more intrusive than laparoscopy.

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