Every woman knows that reproductive health is crucial. It can affect childbirth and your ability to get pregnant as well as your overall physical and mental well-being. This is why it is important to know the differences between a polyp, cyst, and a fibroid as well as the different signs and symptoms that they include.
What is a fibroid? If you find yourself asking that question, you’re not alone. Fibroids (or uterine fibroids in particular) are benign growths that form from the muscle tissues of the uterus. That means that they are not cancerous and will not spread to other parts of your body.
There is no standard shape or size to a uterine fibroid (also called myomas and leiomyomas). You can also have them without even realizing it. Most women between the ages of 30 and 40 are most prone to fibroids, but both older and younger women experience them too.
Most fibroids do not require medical treatment. However, when they do, surgery is a last resort with hormone treatment being a highly successful option. Fibroids typically start to cause problems if or when they begin to grow.
Those problems normally include:
- Intense pain and/or cramps in your abdomen
- Problems with bowel movements
- Problems with urination
- Significant changes to your menstrual cycle
Tell your doctor right away if you experience these symptoms.
Polyps are growths in the body’s tissue. They start as benign, which means they are not necessarily cancerous. It is, however, possible for polyps to become cancerous due to the way in which they are formed (that is, by abnormal and rapidly dividing cell growth, or the same way cancer cells are formed).
Most polyps form inside and in the lining of the uterus and can be caused for a variety of reasons, the most common one being excess estrogen. Medical problems from polyps normally include:
- Irregular (or longer and heavier) menstrual cycles
- Discomfort in bladder
- Pain or cramping in the pelvic area (hips and legs and during sexual intercourse)
Your doctor will likely want to go remove and test them to ensure they are not cancerous. Doctors usually treat them with minimally invasive gynecological surgery. If you think you may have uterine polyps, it is important to catch them early, so tell your doctor about it as quickly as possible.
Typically growing on the ovaries, cysts are growths that are typically filled with fluid coming from the female reproductive system. Unfortunately, cysts are often the most painful kind of growth, causing anything from a dull ache to a sharp, stabbing pain, depending on the size.
Despite being the most painful, they do not cause heavier menstrual bleeding like polyps and fibroids. The most common medical problems from cysts are:
- Pressure and/or swelling in the lower abdomen, which is typically on the side the cyst is on
- Pain in the pelvic region (or even the lower back and thighs)
- Difficulty emptying bladder
- Difficulty emptying bowels
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Frequent urination
- Unusual vaginal bleeding, which might manifest in sudden, unexpected bleeding
- Weight gain
Cysts also have the potential to be cancerous and are often linked to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS can lead to infertility, miscarriage, type 2 diabetes, mental health issues, sleep apnea, and endometrial cancer.
Reproductive Health: Uterine cancer
Uterine cancer is the most serious diagnosis you can get after being diagnosed with fibroids, polyps, or cysts. It is incredibly important to get regular reproductive health pelvic exams and to talk to your doctor whenever you have unusual menstrual cycles to ensure the earliest detection and diagnosis possible.
Uterine cancer symptoms include:
- Rapid weight loss
- Difficulty urinating
- Pain during urination
- Pain during intercourse
- Pain or discomfort in the pelvic area
- Visible or tangible lumps in the pelvis
- Unusual menstrual bleeding (duration, heaviness, etc.)
There are also dozens of apps to help you track your menstrual cycle. This is useful for knowing if your cycle has changed over time, which is also helpful for your doctor to know.
For more information
It is easy to forget to take care of yourself when you have to balance work, family, and social life. Your health, however, must be a priority. Contact us today at (501) 664-4131 to schedule an exam.