Women with symptom(s) of endometriosis will need to see a medical provider—preferably one who specializes in the female body, such as a gynecologist—to conduct diagnostic tests.
- Pelvic examinations
- Blood tests
- Imaging tests, such as transvaginal ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Surgical procedures, such as a laparoscopy with or without a biopsy
Diagnostic tests for this condition include the following.
This exam can be completed in the doctor’s office. An experienced medical provider will feel or otherwise palpate (examine) areas in the pelvis for any abnormalities, which may include abnormal shapes or any endometriosis lesions like cysts and scars.
Blood work is standard practice for medical providers to rule out any other conditions that may be causing symptoms.
Ultrasounds help a provider identify cysts that may be associated with endometriosis. A device called a transducer is either pressed onto the abdomen or inserted into the vagina to take images of the reproductive system; it does so using high-frequency sound waves.
MRI also gathers images but instead uses a magnetic field and radio waves. While this test can diagnose endometriosis, physicians often use it for those already diagnosed. Why? To learn more about the exact location and size of the endometrial implants.
This minimally invasive and low-risk surgical procedure will confirm the diagnosis of endometriosis. With only a small incision, a scope can examine the reproductive organs in real time. If needed, the surgeon can also remove endometrial tissue that will be tested to rule out cancer and other conditions.
Can endometriosis be seen in an ultrasound?
No, endometriosis will not be able to be seen or confirmed with an ultrasound. An ultrasound may identify lesions or cysts that could suggest endometriosis, though. In these cases, other diagnostic tests will have to confirm these suspicions. Ultrasounds can also identify (or rule out) other medical conditions that cause symptoms similar to endometriosis.
Therefore, an ultrasound is a fairly quick and non-invasive test that will allow a medical provider to choose the next appropriate steps in a person’s care.
Can you diagnose endometriosis without surgery?
At this point, there is no easy, simple test to diagnose endometriosis. A laparoscopy with a biopsy (tissue removal) is considered the “gold standard” in diagnosing endometriosis. This option is typically an expensive, invasive procedure that requires an experienced surgeon to recognize the disease.
Can a Pap smear tell if you have endometriosis?
No, a Papanicolaou (Pap) smear will not be able to identify endometriosis. Pap smears test for abnormal cells caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), as these cells could lead to cervical cancer. So while this test is important, it will not be helpful in diagnosing endometriosis.