Endometrial polyps are small, soft growths on the lining of the uterus (the endometrium). Also known as uterine polyps, endometrial polyps can irritate the surrounding tissue and cause spotting or vaginal bleeding. The polyps can occur alone or in groups. Most uterine polyps are noncancerous (benign).
What causes endometrial polyps?
While the exact cause of endometrial polyps isn't known, they form when there is an overgrowth of tissue in the lining of the uterus.
What are the symptoms of endometrial polyps?
Endometrial polyps often cause no symptoms. If signs or symptoms do occur, they may include:
- Irregular menstrual bleeding
- Bleeding between menstrual periods
- Excessively heavy menstrual periods
- Vaginal bleeding after menopause
What are the risk factors for endometrial polyps?
Factors that may increase your risk of developing endometrial polyps include:
- Use of tamoxifen, a drug therapy for breast cancer
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Cervical polyps
How are endometrial polyps diagnosed?
Tests that may be run to determine the presence of polyps include:
- Pelvic exam (in some cases endometrial polyps may be seen if they are protruding through the cervix)
- Pap smear
- Hysterosalpingogram (HSG). Uses an x-ray and contrast dye injected into the uterus to detect polyps.
- Dilatation and curettage (D&C). Scraping the walls of the uterus to obtain a tissue sample.
- Hysteroscopy. Minimally invasive approach that uses a tiny telescope (hysteroscope) to examine the uterine lining for polyps.
How are endometrial polyps treated?
Treatment options for endometrial polyps include:
Watch and wait approach. If the polyps are small and not causing symptoms, they may be left alone and watched to see if they go away on their own.
Medication. Certain medications may shrink the polyps and lessen symptoms, however the symptoms typically recur once the medication is stopped.
Surgical removal. Endometrial polyps can be removed during hysteroscopy, a procedure that uses a tiny telescope (hysteroscope) and thin surgical instruments to view and treat areas inside the uterus. A curettage may also be performed - scraping of the uterus to remove the polyps - guided by a hysteroscope.
Hysterectomy. In rare cases a hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus) may be recommended to remove cancerous cells or numerous polyps. Uterine polyps can recur, requiring additional treatment.