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A New Blood Test for Endometriosis Detection

No typical presentation exists, but a new blood test could detect endometriosis. Endometriosis is a disease affecting millions of women. Endometriosis and its symptoms are varied and cause some women intense pain and problems conceiving children.

Current standards require surgery for a final diagnosis of this disease. Doctors have been trying to find new ways of accomplishing similar outcomes with less invasive techniques. A recent study shows promising results in analyzing blood biomarkers to diagnose those with the condition. Early detection could identify these patients earlier and get them started on treatment sooner.1

Diagnosing disease with so many variables

Endometrial tissue that grows outside the uterus is the most basic definition of a complex condition.2,3 Endometriosis is a chronic disease that often doesn’t show symptoms until the condition is pronounced enough to cause pain and fertility issues. Unfortunately, endometriosis is difficult to identify in its earliest stages. 

Because endometriosis shares symptoms with many other conditions, a misdiagnosis or disregard of the symptoms can occur.3 Some of the symptoms of endometriosis include:

Surgery to identify and remove endometrial lesions from the pelvis has always been considered the gold standard. Due to the risks involved in surgical interventions and the unknowns of symptoms suspected of endometriosis, surgery is rarely done in the early stages.

Advances in diagnostic methods

Women desire a definitive diagnosis followed by treatment to relieve pain and help with fertility struggles, particularly while still in childbearing years.Finding a method for early diagnosis, like blood tests for endometriosis, is high as this disease’s physical, mental, and financial challenges are profound. 

Moustafa et al. (2020) say, “Identifying and treating the disease sooner would potentially prevent complications of the advanced disease such as infertility while decreasing the economic burden of untreated endometriosis.”

In their study, Moustafa et al. analyzed a particular form of micro RNA [miRNA] in blood tests that showed high levels of epigenetic nucleotides related to advanced endometriosis. By singling out one type of miRNA and broadening it to a much more varied sample of women, researchers could see if this was an effective and less invasive method of detecting the disease.

The results of this new miRNA biomarker test were promising. Rather than looking for generalized inflammatory markers, this study identified specific miRNAs associated with endometriosis.1

Endometriosis diagnosis and treatment

Quality, evidence-based research takes time, especially when a disease is so non-specific and pervasive. However, because of the prevalence of endometriosis, the desire to find ways of identifying it sooner and beginning treatment is compelling. 

Alternatives to surgical removal of endometrial tissues are hormone therapy for managing pain and symptoms.2 Options get trickier when fertility struggles come into play. Close communication with a doctor is essential to select the appropriate treatment options for the patient.2,3 

Future directions

The future of diagnostic alternatives and interventions for endometriosis is promising. With the discovery of blood tests for endometriosis that identify specific miRNA biomarkers, new avenues to invasive diagnostics and treatments can be explored. As a result, patients living with this debilitating disease have reason to hope that new options for diagnosis and treatment are possible. 

References

  1. Moustafa, Sarah, et al. Accurate diagnosis of endometriosis using serum microRNAs. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 223.4 (2020): 557-e1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2020.02.050
  2. Chapron, C., Marcellin, L., Borghese, B. et al. Rethinking mechanisms, diagnosis and management of endometriosis. Nat Rev Endocrinol 15, 666–682 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41574-019-0245-z
  3. Saunders, Philippa TK, and Andrew W. Horne. Endometriosis: Etiology, pathobiology, and therapeutic prospects. Cell 184.11 (2021): 2807-2824. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2021.04.041
Donna Gambill MSN
Donna Gambill MSN
Donna Gambill is an MSN with a 20 + year background in emergency medicine, specializing in trauma as a Trauma Nurse Specialist. In addition to working within the Illinois EMS system as a quality manager, she uses freelance writing to bring her nursing experience to a broader audience.
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