Medical professionals refer to the space surrounded by a layer of mucus membranes that lines the uterus as the endometrial cavity. The cells that make up this layer are called endometrial cells. In humans, the cells of the cavity renew themselves monthly, as part of the reproductive cycle of healthy women. The body builds up a dense layer of tissue which could support a fetus, and if a woman is not impregnated, it is shed in the form of a menstrual period. An assortment of health problems are associated with this cavity, which is one of the reasons why it is important for women to get frequent medical check-ups.
One of the most common issues involving endometrial cells is endometriosis, which is caused by the growth of these cells outside of the uterus. Most commonly, these clusters of cells grow in the abdomen, but they can appear in other parts of the body. Just like the cells in the uterus, they respond to the hormone cycles of the body by shedding and attempting to detach, but since they lack an escape route, the cells cause internal bleeding, scarring, and sometimes intense pain. The condition can be difficult to diagnose, and generally appears in women between 25 and 35 years of age, although it has been recorded in girls as young as 11.
Cancers of the endometrial cavity are also common among women. This type of cancer most commonly occurs in women who are past reproductive age, and because it is slow growing, it can often be quickly arrested and stopped if a woman and her healthcare provider are alert. Endometrial cancer causes abnormal vaginal bleeding, so women should keep track of their menstrual cycles and report irregularities to a medical professional. If cancer is suspected, a biopsy will be performed to obtain tissue samples to test. Women should be aware that a PAP smear does not always reveal endometrial or uterine cancers, as it is taken from the area of the cervix.
Fluid can also build up in the endometrial cavity. Among women of reproductive age, this is usually associated with pregnancy, but in older women, it may be a sign of a problem. If an ultrasound reveals a buildup of fluid, a sample will be taken to determine whether or not the cause is benign. Fluid is not always a cause for alarm. Women should rely on the judgment of a healthcare professional to determine whether or not the fluid should be further investigated or not.