Growths within the uterus are known as endometrial polyps or uterine fibroids. Polyps typically cause irregular bleeding and fibroids commonly cause heavy bleeding.
Endometrial polyps are growths extending from the lining of the uterus, called the "endometrium". Polyps cause irregular spotting and pre- or postmenstrual staining.
In rare cases, polyps can become cancerous. The risk for cancerous polyps does increase, only slightly, for patients over the age of 50.
Endometrial polyps grow from the lining of the uterus (the endometrium). The incidence increases with age, traditionally peaking between 40 and 50 years, before gradually declining after menopause. They can be single or multiple growths. Polyps typically present abnormal bleeding episodes, vaginal discharge, and even postmenopausal bleeding. In fact, it has been reported that 25% of all abnormal pre- and postmenopausal bleeding is caused by endometrial polyps.
Uterine fibroids (also called myomas or leiomyomas) can grow in different parts of the uterus: inside the wall, inside the uterine cavity, and toward the outer surface of the uterus. They vary in size and quantity. It is estimated that 20% to 50% of women between ages 30 and 50 have fibroids. Even many women in their 20's can develop these growths. By the age of 40, approximately 40% to 70% of women may have them. Fibroids are more prevalent in African American women, who have a 3 to 5 times greater risk than Caucasian women of developing fibroids. Women who are overweight are also at a slightly higher risk. Fibroids are not typically associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer and almost never develop into cancer.
A woman may have a single fibroid or multiple fibroids of any type. There are three different types of fibroids, and the most appropriate treatment is determined by their location:
Intramural: These fibroids stay mostly embedded within the center of the wall of the uterus. They are the most common type of fibroid and can lead to heavier than usual menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, back pain or generalized pressure.
Submucous: These fibroids, which grow and bulge toward the inside of the uterus, are the least common but most problematic of all fibroids. Even very small growths can cause heavy bleeding and prolonged menstrual periods. They cannot be detected by clinical exam alone.
Subserosal: These fibroids grow and bulge toward the outside of the uterus. They typically do not affect menstrual flow but can cause significant pelvic and back pain, as well as generalized pressure.