Cervical polyps

Definition

Cervical polyps are fingerlike growths on the lower part of the uterus that connects with the vagina (cervix).

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The cause of cervical polyps is not completely understood. They may occur with:

  • An abnormal response to increased levels of the female hormone, estrogen
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Clogged blood vessels in the cervix

Cervical polyps are common, especially in women over age 20 who have had children. Polyps are rare in young women who have not started their period (menstruation).

Most women have only one polyp, but some women have two or three.

Symptoms

Polyps may not cause symptoms.

Signs and tests

During a pelvic examination, the health care provider will see smooth, red or purple, fingerlike growths on the cervix. A cervical biopsy will most often show cells that are consistent with a benign polyp. Rarely there may be abnormal, precancerous, or cancer cells in a polyp.

Treatment

The health care provider can remove polyps during a simple, outpatient procedure. Gentle twisting of a cervical polyp may remove it. Larger polyps may require removal with electrocautery.

Although most cervical polyps are not cancerous (benign), the removed tissue should be sent to a laboratory and checked further.

Expectations (prognosis)

Typically, polyps are not cancerous (benign) and are easy to remove. Polyps do not usually grow back. Women who have polyps are at risk of growing more polyps.

Complications

There may be bleeding and slight cramping for a few days after removal of a polyp. Some cervical cancers may first appear as a polyp. Certain uterine polyps may be associated with uterine cancer. 

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment if you have:

  • Abnormal bleeding from the vagina, including bleeding after sex or between periods
  • Abnormal discharge from the vagina
  • Abnormally heavy periods

Call your doctor or nurse to schedule regular gynecological exams. Ask how often you should receive a Pap smear .

Prevention

See your health care provider to treat infections as soon as possible.

References

Katz VL. Benign gynecologic lesions: Vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, oviduct, ovary. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 18.

Review Date:2/26/2012

Reviewed by:Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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