Benign Uterine Growths (Growths of the Womb)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Cancer 101: Cancer Explained

Uterine Fibroid Symptoms

Uterine fibroids: Uterine fibroids are benign tumors of the uterus (the womb). They are the single most common indication for hysterectomy.

Uterine fibroids can be present, but be inapparent. However, they are clinically apparent in up to 25% of all women and cause significant morbidity (disease), including prolonged or heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pressure or pain, and, in rare cases, reproductive dysfunction.

Quick GuideWomen's Health: A Visual Guide to Uterine Fibroids

Women's Health: A Visual Guide to Uterine Fibroids

What are uterine growths?

Uterine growths are tissue enlargements of the female womb (uterus). Uterine growths can be caused by either harmless or dangerous conditions. Growths are sometimes referred to medically as masses or tumors. An example of a harmless (benign or non-cancerous) growth, which does not pose a threat, is a polyp of the cervix. Some growths, such as uterine fibroids, are benign, but they can still cause some annoying problems, such as bleeding. Other dangerous growths of the uterus include cancerous (malignant) tumors.

While the majority of uterine growths are benign, cancers of the uterus do occur. This article will discuss the benign conditions that cause uterine growths or masses. Benign growths, or non-cancerous, growths include uterine fibroids, adenomyosis, and uterine polyps.

Anatomy

The uterus (or womb) is a hollow, pear-shaped organ that is located in a woman's pelvix between the bladder and the rectum. The narrow, lower portion of the uterus is the cervix; the broader, upper part is known as the corpus. The cervix forms the transition between the uterus and the vagina. The vagina, or birth canal, connects the uterus to the outside of the body.

Female Illustration of Female Reproductive 
	System
Female Illustration of Female Reproductive System

What are uterine fibroids?

Uterine fibroids are benign masses that grow in the uterus for unclear reasons. Uterine fibroids are commonly called by the shorter name, "fibroids." The medical term for a fibroid is leiomyoma, which refers to a proliferation or abnormal growth of smooth muscle tissue. Uterine fibroids arise from the tissue in the muscle layer of the wall of the uterus, called the myometrium. They are not usually cancerous.

The reason why some women develop fibroids is not yet understood. Family history may play a role, since there is often a history of fibroids developing in women of the same family. For poorly understood reasons, fibroids are more common in African American women (who have a two to three fold increased risk) than in white Americans or Asian women. Fibroids are most common between the ages of 35 to 49. In addition, women who are overweight have an increased risk of fibroids. Most women with fibroids probably go through life not even knowing they have them, because fibroids are often found incidentally during diagnostic or therapeutic procedures.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/2/2015

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