Common Conditions That Can Affect the Uterus

What's Wrong With My Uterus? Diagnoses and Treatment Options

Woman with uterine cramps
Getty Images/Peter Dazeley

A woman's uterus – sometimes also referred to as her womb – is located in her lower abdomen, between her bladder and her rectum. Pear-shaped, the lower, narrow end of the uterus is known as the cervix. On each side of the uterus are the fallopian tubes and the ovaries. Together, the uterus, vagina, ovaries, and fallopian tubes make up a woman's reproductive system.

Common Conditions That Can Affect the Uterus

There are a number of conditions that can affect the uterus. So how do you know whether or not something might be wrong?

If you notice anything strange going on in your vaginal area, you should talk to your doctor. There are several diagnostic tests he can perform in order to determine whether you have a health problem, and what it is. This includes learning your medical history, conducting a vaginal exam, doing a Pap smear, taking samples of your blood and urine and sending them to a lab, or ordering an imaging test. Any one of these tests may reveal one of the following noncancerous uterine conditions:

  • Fibroids. Fibroids are growths in the walls of the uterus. Sometimes, a fibroid attaches to the outside of the uterus by a stalk. They can be as small as a seed or a pea or as large as an orange or small melon. Although fibroids are called "tumors," they are not cancer. They are smooth muscle growths.
  • Endometriosis. If you have endometriosis, it means that the same kind of tissue that lines your uterus is also growing in other parts of your body, usually in the abdomen. This can cause scar tissue to build up around your organs.
  • Endometrial hyperplasia. Endometrial hyperplasia is a condition in which excessive proliferation of the cells of the endometrium, or the inner lining of the uterus, becomes too thick, resulting in abnormal bleeding. It is not cancer, but in some cases, it can lead to cancer of the uterus.
  • Ovarian cysts. These are small, fluid-filled sacs that usually are not malignant.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease. This is an infection of one or more of the pelvic organs, including the uterus, cervix, and fallopian tubes. It occurs when bacteria or organisms enter the cervix and spread upward.
  • Severe menstrual pain. Some women have extreme cramping just before and during their period. The technical term for this is dysmenorrhea.
  • Very heavy menstrual bleeding. This refers to when the bleeding you experience during menstruation is heavier than usual, and/or lasts for longer than you're used to.

Some of these conditions may necessitate that you undergo a hysterectomy, a surgical removal of the uterus. Sometimes, the cervix and/or the ovaries and the fallopian tubes are also removed.

As mentioned, these are conditions of the uterus that are not cancer. If treatments for the above conditions don't eliminate any symptoms you're experiencing, the answer could lie there.