Let’s dissect our body (no pun intended), and more specifically our internal female reproductive organs. I always compare most women’s knowledge about their bodies to my knowledge about my car. People say “what kind of car do you drive?” and my response? “It’s a black one…..” Hopefully this will help you understand a bit more when your doctor is explaining something, as well as help you convey your concerns to them.
1. The Uterus: This is the big pink light bulb looking organ. The uterus is also called “the womb”. It’s most important function is to house children. It’s most annoying one is to give us a period every month (although remember, the uterus just listens to what the ovaries say—it DOES NOT have any hormones inherently in it). Listed below are some of the ailments that can affect the uterus, and a little description about them.
- Fibroids: 80-90% of women have fibroids. This is a mass of usually BENIGN muscle tissue. Fibroids can range anywhere from the size of a marble, to a watermelon. The biggest problems that arise from fibroids include bleeding, and pelvic pressure.
- Polyps: these are a small growth of tissue arising in the inside of the uterus. These typically arise in the perimenopausal time in a woman’s life. Although these can contain cancerous or precancerous cells, the majority of the time they are benign and cause irregular bleeding or cramping.
2. The Cervix: the little nub separating your uterus from your vagina. I fondly refer to this as the “doorway to the uterus”. It is the structure that opens when in labor (with complete opening being ten centimeters). This is also important during a routine annual exam, as your gynecologist will check for precancerous cells during your Pap smear. This is also where STDs are typically found (hence the encompassing term cervicitis, an infection in your cervix).
3. The Fallopian Tubes: literally small tubes running from the uterus to the ovaries. Their primary purpose is to serve as the location where the egg and sperm meet, and then to eventually transport the growing embryo to the uterus. This process doesn’t always work as planned, and if a pregnancy implants in the tube itself, this is a medical emergency, called either a tubal, or ectopic pregnancy.
4. The Ovaries: Ahhh the ovaries. As a gynecologist I have a strong love/hate relationship with you. These little almond sized structures are what secrete hormones every month to cause a period. They provide hormonal support in early pregnancy as well. Also, these little powerhouses normally create small cysts every month to secrete said hormones. Sometimes these cysts get very large and can rupture, causing immense pain and cramping. Because these little organs have so much daily change and growth, they are also at risk for mutating into ovarian cancer. Don’t worry too much though. According to national cancer statistics, a woman’s risk of getting ovarian cancer during her lifetime is about 1 in 75.
Just like it’s helpful for the mechanic to know exactly what your concerns with your car may be, understanding your anatomy can help communication with your physician. Remember, this is not an all inclusive list of disease processes that can affect you or your reproductive organs. Please discuss any concerns you have with your physician.