uterus, disorders of
Conditions that affect the uterus (womb) include benign or malignant (cancerous) growths, congenital disorders, infection, and hormonal imbalances that may affect menstrual flow.
Benign (non-cancerous) growths of the uterus
Fibroids are common benign tumors that grow in the muscle of the uterus. They occur mainly in women in their forties. Women may have many fibroids at the same time. Fibroids do not develop into cancer. As a woman reaches menopause, fibroids are likely to become smaller, and sometimes they disappear.
Usually, fibroids cause no symptoms and need no treatment. But depending on their size and location, fibroids can cause bleeding, vaginal discharge, and frequent urination. Women with these symptoms should see a doctor. If fibroids cause heavy bleeding, or if they press against nearby organs and cause pain, the doctor may suggest surgery or other treatment.
Endometriosis is another benign condition that affects the uterus. It is most common in women in their thirties and forties, especially in women who have never been pregnant. It occurs when endometrial tissue begins to grow on the outside of the uterus and on nearby organs. This condition may cause painful menstrual periods, abnormal vaginal bleeding, and sometimes loss of fertility (ability to get pregnant), but it does not cause cancer. Women with endometriosis may be treated with hormones or surgery.
Endometrial hyperplasia is an increase in the number of cells in the lining of the uterus. It is not cancer. Sometimes it develops into cancer. Heavy menstrual periods, bleeding between periods, and bleeding after menopause are common symptoms of hyperplasia. It is most common after age 40.
To prevent endometrial hyperplasia from developing into cancer, the doctor may recommend hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus) or treatment with hormones (progesterone) and regular followup exams.
Malignant (cancerous) growths of the uterus
See cancer of the uterus.
Congenital disorders of the uterus
The uterus develops embryonically into two halves, which fuse along the midline. About one percent of women have a congenital malformation of the uterus usually resulting from a fusion error. This is not usually serious but may predispose a woman to premature labor, breech presentation, or retention of the placenta after birth. More rarely, the uterus may be missing, or there may be separate right and left halves, each with its own cervix and vagina. If a congenital disorder makes it difficult or impossible for a woman to conceive or to carry a pregnancy to term, surgical correction may be necessary.
Hormonal disorders of the uterus
Excessive production of prostaglandins by the uterus may lead to painful periods (dysmenorrhoea) or heavy periods (menorrhagia). Hormonal disorders affecting the ovary or other organs may disrupt the normal build-up of endometrium during the menstrual cycle, causing menstrual disorders, especially an absence of periods (amenorrhoea) or irregular, heavy bleeding.