The uterus is a hollow muscular organ in which a fetus is carried and develops from conception until birth. It is also known as the womb. A pear-shaped organ about 3 inches (7.5 cm) long, the human uterus is situated in the pelvis above the bladder and in front of the rectum. It is wider at the top than at the bottom. The top of your uterus is called the body, corpus, or fundus. The fallopian tubes (oviducts) and ligaments leading to the ovaries extend from each side of the uterus. The lower part of your uterus, called the neck, or cervix, is connected to the vagina. The cervix has an opening to permit sperm to enter the uterus and travel up the fallopian tubes to fertilize an egg. The same opening allows the monthly escape of blood in menstruation. When the lining of uterus becomes too thick, the condition is called thickened endometrium.
During the first part of each menstrual cycle, your uterus enlarges, its blood supply increases, and its inner lining becomes softer and thicker in preparation for the implantation of a fertilized egg. In the latter part of the cycle, if implantation does not occur, these changes are reversed and the lining of your uterus breaks down and is sloughed off in the menstrual fluid. When this uterus lining becomes too thick, the condition is known as thickening of the endometrium.
During pregnancy the uterus enlarges greatly to make room for the growing baby. Its weight increases from about 2 ounces (60 grams) at conception to over 2 pounds (1 kg) when the baby is born. It shrinks to nearly its previous size soon after delivery.
Many women after the age of 35 develop growths of extra muscle tissue, commonly called fibroids. They are benign tumors that rarely do any harm even when they become large. They almost never become cancerous. Many fibroids can be left untreated because they decrease or virtually disappear during menopause. However, fibroids associated with uterine hemorrhages must be removed. After an age most women face the condition of thickening of endometrium.
A cancer that attacks the cervix is much more dangerous than one that involves the body of the uterus. The treatment of the two cancers differs, but most women can be cured if the malignancy is detected early. Indeed, while cervical cancer was at one time the chief cause of cancer-related mortality among American women, between 1955 and 1992, cervical-cancer deaths fell by 74%, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). This decrease resulted primarily from greater use of an exam called the Papanicolaou (Pap) smear test, which can be employed to detect early cervical cancers and abnormal cervical cells that can become cancerous.
The ACS recommends that an initial Pap test be given about three years after a woman has first had vaginal intercourse or, even if sexual intercourse has not occurred, by age 21. The test should then be performed yearly until age 30. (According to the ACS the frequency can be dropped to once every 2 years if a newer, so-called liquid-based exam is used as an alternative to the regular Pap test. However, this recommendation has raised some controversy, since there is mixed evidence as to whether the liquid-based test provides better results than a standard one.)
For women 30 years of age and above, the Pap test can be performed less often, once every 2 or 3 years, but only if a patient’s three most recent Pap tests have been normal and risk factors for cervical cancer, such as a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, are absent. After age 70 (or age 65, according to some sources), if no risk factors are present, Pap tests may no longer be necessary.
It is suspended by ligaments between the bladder and the rectum. The uterus consists of a broad upper portion (fundus); a middle, narrower portion (body); and a neck (cervix) that protrudes into the vagina. The cervical canal links the vagina with the interior of your uterus
The inner surface of your uterus is lined with a thick mucous membrane, the endometrium, in which the fertilized egg becomes implanted. In the absence of pregnancy, the outer cells of the endometrium are shed along with blood during menstruation. The uterine muscles contain elastic and collagenous fibers, which allow the uterus to expand during pregnancy and forcibly contract during labor prior to birth.