Normally, endometrial tissue is found only inside the uterus; the tissue leaves the body during menstruation. In endometriosis, endometrial-like tissue is found outside the uterus, on organs in the abdomen or pelvis, for example.

Overview and Symptoms

In these places, the tissue still responds to hormones — it swells, breaks down and bleeds — but it’s unable to leave during menstruation. As a result, surrounding tissue becomes inflamed and there’s often scarring.

Symptoms range from mild to severe. You may have many large growths with little pain. Or, you may have small areas with intense pain. Symptoms include:

  • Cramping and pelvic pain, especially just before and during menstrual bleeding
  • Pain during sex
  • Lower back pain
  • Pain during bowel movements or urination
  • Infertility


There are several treatments for endometriosis: pain medication, hormonal therapy and surgery, including minimally invasive gynecological surgery.

If you have severe symptoms or you want to get pregnant, physicians may be able to remove endometrial growths, often with laparoscopic surgery.

Unfortunately, the only way to potentially cure endometriosis is with a hysterectomy. This option is reserved for women who are done with childbearing or who suffer with debilitating pain. Extensive, widespread endometriosis may also require removal of both fallopian tubes and ovaries at the time of the hysterectomy.

Learn More

The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at BIDMC provides outstanding care for all women throughout their lives, in a friendly, comfortable and safe environment.

Obstetrics and Gynecology