Posted: 08 Dec 2014 07:00 AM PST
As a woman, your overall health is very important to you for a number of reasons. So, what do you do when your body feels out of balance? Most of you will just take a simple supplement and move on, but maybe there's something bigger at work here. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine system disorders in women.  Affecting between 10 and 20 percent of reproductive-age women, PCOS is caused by an imbalance in female hormones.  A healthy endocrine system is responsible for many things, including the production of hormones. But, when this system is not functioning as it should, that's where problems begin. In the case of PCOS, this imbalance of hormones affects the reproductive system.
What is PCOS?
Perhaps this is the first time you've heard of PCOS. The label 'Polycystic Ovary Syndrome' sounds pretty scary, but it really isn't. Let's break it down to really understand exactly what it means. In a healthy woman's reproductive system, ovulation and menstruation occur normally each month; but, in the system of a woman with PCOS, these processes get a little confused.
Because of elevated testosterone (another hormonal imbalance) within the ovary, an egg might not detach from the follicle. This means one of two things—an irregular period or none at all. Some of you might think that sounds great; not having a period means one less thing to worry about, right? Well, not in this case. Those immature eggs that never detached are left behind, causing cysts within the ovaries.
This can lead to issues like infertility, but there are also darker concerns: increased cancer risk. A study from the Department of Reproductive Medicine suggests that women with PCOS have an increased risk of endometrial cancer due to the irregularity or absence of periods.  Still, another study from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism suggests a lack of ovulation also increases the risk for ovarian or breast cancers. 
One Final Thought
With hormonal imbalances at work, PCOS has so many interconnected symptoms that a diagnosis can be difficult.  This can certainly make things frustrating for those who think they might have it. Since the endocrine system is responsible for the function of many other systems in the body, your overall health begins here, so make sure you're paying attention to your body's internal cues.
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