Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Problems of the Womb

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HealthWiki > Where Women Have No Doctor > Chapter 24: Cancer and Growths > Problems of the Womb


Contents

Common growths of the womb

Fibroid tumors

womb
fibroids

Fibroids are growths of the womb. They can cause abnormal bleeding from the vagina, pain in the lower belly, and repeated miscarriage (losing a pregnancy). They are almost never cancer.

Signs:
  • heavy monthly bleeding or bleeding at unusual times of the month
  • pain or a heavy feeling in the lower belly
  • deep pain during sex
a health worker doing an ultrasound exam of a woman's belly while the woman is lying down
An ultrasound test can show
how large the fibroids are
Finding and treating fibroids

Fibroids are usually found during a pelvic exam. The womb will feel too large or be the wrong shape. A test called an ultrasound, if it is available, can show how large the fibroids are.

If fibroids cause problems, they can be removed with surgery. Sometimes the whole womb is removed. But most of the time, surgery is not necessary because fibroids usually become smaller after menopause and stop causing problems. If monthly bleeding is heavy because of fibroids, anemia may develop. Try to eat foods rich in iron.

polyps

Polyps

Polyps are dark red growths that can grow inside the womb or at the cervix. They are rarely cancer.

Signs:
  • bleeding after sex
  • heavy monthly bleeding or bleeding at unusual times of the month
Finding and treating polyps

Polyps at the cervix can be seen and removed easily and painlessly during a pelvic exam by someone who has been trained. To find polyps inside the womb, the inside of the womb must be scraped out (this is called a D and C). The D and C also removes the polyps. The growth is sent to a laboratory to make sure there is no cancer. Once polyps are removed, they usually do not grow back.

Cancer of the womb

(Endometrial cancer, cancer of the uterus)

cancer
of the
womb

Cancer of the womb usually starts in the lining inside the womb (the endometrium). If it is not treated it can spread to the womb itself and to other parts of the body. This cancer happens most often to women who:

  • are over 40 years old, especially if they have gone through menopause.
  • are overweight.
  • have diabetes.
  • have taken the hormone estrogen without also taking progesterone.
a woman turning to look at blood on the back of her skirt
Signs:
  • heavy monthly bleeding
  • irregular monthly bleeding, or bleeding at unusual times of the month
  • bleeding after menopause
IMPORTANT! If you have any bleeding at all, even light spotting, after you have finished menopause (12 months without monthly bleeding), get checked by a health worker to make sure you do not have cancer.
Finding and treating cancer of the womb

To find out if a woman has cancer of the womb, a trained health worker must scrape out the inside of the womb with a D and C, or do a biopsy, and send the tissue to a laboratory to be checked for cancer. If cancer is found, it must be treated as soon as possible with an operation to remove the womb (hysterectomy). Radiation therapy may also be used.

If cancer of the womb is found early, it can be cured. If it is more advanced, curing it is more difficult.

IMPORTANT! Any woman who is over 40 years old and has unusual bleeding should get checked by a health worker.


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