What are cervical polyps?
Cervical polyps are fingerlike growths on the cervical canal, the passage that connects the uterus to the vagina.
Cervical polyps rarely cause symptoms. They are normally discovered during routine pelvic exams. Most women have only one polyp, but two or three can develop. They are easy to remove and do not usually grow back.
The vast majority of cervical polyps are benign (not cancerous). All polyps should be examined for signs of cancer after removal.
What causes cervical polyps?
Cervical polyps occur when a group of cells within the cervix form an abnormal growth. The exact cause of these growths isn't known. They may result from:
- Cervical infection
- Chronic inflammation
- An abnormal response to the female hormone estrogen
- Clogged blood vessels in the cervical canal
Am I at risk for cervical polyps?
Cervical polyps are common in women over age 20 who have given birth to more than one child. They are most common in pre-menopausal women.
What are the symptoms of cervical polyps?
Cervical polyps often cause no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may include:
- Heavier bleeding during periods
- Bleeding after intercourse
- Bleeding after menopause
- Bleeding between periods
- Vaginal discharge, with a foul smell caused by infection
How are cervical polyps diagnosed?
Because cervical polyps rarely cause symptoms, they are usually discovered during a routine pelvic exam and Pap smear.
During the pelvic examination, the physician may observe the typically red or purple fingerlike growths on the cervix.
How are cervical polyps treated?
The most common treatment is removal of the polyp (polypectomy) during a pelvic exam in the clinic. This can be done by gently twisting the polyp until it is freed.
Depending on the size of the polyp, other methods of removal include:
- Tying the base of the polyp to minimize bleeding
- Electrical current (LEEP) or laser therapy, for large polyps
- Traditional surgery to cut off and stitch close the polyp site
- Dilation and curettage, scraping the polyp off
The removed polyp will be sent to the laboratory to evaluate for signs of cancer.
How can I prevent cervical polyps?
While prevention isn't possible, routine pelvic exams and Pap tests can help detect and treat cervical polyps before they cause symptoms.