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Cervical polyps

Definition

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

Causes

The exact cause of cervical polyps is not known. 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. They are often in women over age 20 who have had children. Polyps are rare in young women who have not started having their period (menstruation).

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

Symptoms

Polyps do not always cause symptoms. When symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Very heavy menstrual periods
  • Vaginal bleeding after douching or intercourse
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding after menopause or between periods
  • White or yellow mucus (leukorrhea)

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will see smooth, red or purple fingerlike growths on the cervix during a pelvic exam.

A cervical biopsy will be performed. Most of the time, the biopsy will 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.

  • Smaller polyps may be removed with gentle twisting.
  • Electrocautery may be needed to remove larger polyps.

The removed polyp tissue should be sent to a lab for further tests.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most polyps are not cancerous (benign) and are easy to remove. Polyps do not grow back most of the time. Women who have polyps are at risk of growing more polyps.

Possible 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. 

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider 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. In: Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 18.


Review Date: 2/24/2014
Reviewed By: 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, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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