Skip to Main Content




Disorders of the female reproductive system can occur as a result of disease in one of the many varied reproductive organs: the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the uterus, the cervix, the vagina, or the breast. During the reproductive years, these disorders often present as altered menstruation, pelvic pain, or infertility. Cancers arising in these tissues occur more often in the late reproductive or menopausal years. Unfortunately, for several reasons, they often have high mortality rates and a high incidence of metastases when they are diagnosed. Some organs are located deep and are relatively inaccessible to palpation (ovaries). Others have few sensory nerves (ovary, fallopian tubes) and hence remain asymptomatic. Additionally, the breasts have large amounts of adipose tissue, which can make early detection of breast cancer difficult. The one exception is the uterine cervix. It has easy access to surveillance with use of the Papanicolaou smear and human papillomavirus (HPV) screening, which have led to a dramatically reduced mortality rate of cervical cancer.


Disorders of the female reproductive system can also occur as a result of disease in other organs whose function affects reproductive organs (eg, the brain, hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, kidney, and liver). Presentation of these disorders is typically painless.


Conversely, disorders of the reproductive system can cause disorders in other tissues. Ovarian hormones are necessary for the maintenance and health of most tissues in women. Alterations in these hormones can lead to osteoporosis (loss of bone mass), atrophy and inflammation of estrogen-deprived tissues (eg, atrophic vaginitis), atherogenesis and alterations in cardiovascular compliance, and an increased risk of some forms of cancer (eg, endometrial carcinoma as a consequence of estrogen excess and progesterone deficiency). Dysfunction of the reproductive system also can contribute to unique variants of systemic disorders, such as gestational diabetes and the hypertensive syndrome of preeclampsia-eclampsia.



  • 1. How do female reproductive system disorders present during the reproductive years?

  • 2. To what might you ascribe the lack of reduction in mortality rate from ovarian cancer in contrast to cervical cancer?

  • 3. What are some consequences of reproductive system dysfunction?


Normal Structure & Function of the Female Reproductive Tract




The reproductive pelvic organs include the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries (Figure 22–1). The two ovaries contain thousands of follicles, each with an oocyte surrounded by a layer of granulosa cells and thecal cells. These supporting cells produce steroids and paracrine products important in follicular maturation and coordination of events in reproduction. The fallopian tubes, which are open to the peritoneal space, connect the ovaries to the uterus. The uterus contains an internal hormone-sensitive mucosal lining, the endometrium. During nonpregnant cycles, menstrual bleeding occurs as the monthly culmination of endometrial growth, differentiation, and sloughing in response to changes in blood levels of estrogen and progesterone (Figure 22–2). During pregnancy, the endometrium produces ...

Want remote access to your institution's subscription?

Sign in to your MyAccess profile while you are actively authenticated on this site via your institution (you will be able to verify this by looking at the top right corner of the screen - if you see your institution's name, you are authenticated). Once logged in to your MyAccess profile, you will be able to access your institution's subscription for 90 days from any location. You must be logged in while authenticated at least once every 90 days to maintain this remote access.


About MyAccess

If your institution subscribes to this resource, and you don't have a MyAccess profile, please contact your library's reference desk for information on how to gain access to this resource from off-campus.

Subscription Options

AccessPharmacy Full Site: One-Year Subscription

Connect to the full suite of AccessPharmacy content and resources including 30+ textbooks such as Pharmacotherapy: A Pathophysiologic Approach and Goodman & Gilman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, high-quality videos, images, and animations, interactive board review, drug and herb/supplements databases, and more.

$595 USD
Buy Now

Pay Per View: Timed Access to all of AccessPharmacy

24 Hour Subscription $34.95

Buy Now

48 Hour Subscription $54.95

Buy Now

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.