What are Cervical Polyps?

Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments for Cervical Polyps

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So, you have been told you have a cervical polyp. Don't panic. 

What Is A Polyp?

Any body surface that is lined with a mucous membrane that is rich in blood vessels can produce a  growth called a polyp. Areas of the body where polyps typically occur include the:

  • colon/intestines
  • uterus
  • nasal passages
  • mouth
  • bladder

Polyps are considered fragile growths because they bleed easily when they are touched or irritated.

 

What Are Cervical Polyps?

Cervical polyps are usually small, tear drop shaped projections that grow from the surface of the cervix or more commonly in the endocervical canal. The endocervical canal is the inside of the cervix that leads to the uterus. It is lined with glandular cells that are typical of mucous membranes. 

Endocervical polyps hang from a stalk that contains their blood supply. Polyps that develop in the endocervical canal will typically grow into the canal and often push though the cervical os.

While the cause of cervical polyps is not clear, there may be an association with chronic cervical inflammation, clogged cervical blood vessels, or an abnormal response to increased levels of estrogen.

Who Typical Develops Cervical Polyps?

Cervical polyps almost never occur prior to the onset of menstruation or menarche and are seen in approximately 4% of women of reproductive age. They are most common in women in their 40s and 50s who have who have more than one child.

Additionally, cervical polyps are common during early pregnancy, presumably due to higher levels of circulating hormones. In most cases, only one cervical polyp is present. However, occasionally two or three cervical polyps may be present.

What Are The Symptoms Of Cervical Polyps?

Many cervical polyps are asymptomatic causing no symptoms at all.

Cervical polyps rarely cause pain. Even though they push through the opening of the cervix they are generally too small and too soft to dilate the cervix and cause pain. If you are diagnosed with a cervical polyp because you are having pain it is most likely a large endometrial polyp or even a prolapsed pedunculated fibroid. The typical symptoms of cervical polyps include:

How Are Cervical Polyps Diagnosed?

Diagnosing cervical polyps is relatively simple. Cervical polyps are usually easy to see during a pelvic exam when your doctor uses a speculum to visualize your cervix. Cervical polyps appear smooth, with a red or purple color, and protrude from the cervical canal. If the cervical polyp is larger than expected, your doctor may order a pelvic ultrasound to evaluate the possibility of a prolapsed endometrial polyp or fibroid.

How Are Cervical Polyps Treated?

If your doctor finds a cervical polyp during a routine exam she will likely recommend it be removed, even if you are not having any symptoms.

Cervical polyps are almost always benign but you can't be absolutely sure unless they are removed and examined. Removing a cervical polyp is very easy and usually relatively painless. So, the benefits of removing the polyp outweigh any risks associated with the procedure. 

Usually, your doctor can easily remove your cervical polyp in the office by simply grasping it with a clamp and gently twisting it off. You will experience minimal discomfort, usually just a tugging sensation or maybe a little cramping. If the polyp is large or with a very thick stalk your doctor will likely recommend the removal be done in the operating room. A common technique is tying surgical string around the base of the polyp and cutting it off. The remaining base of the cervical polyp may be  removed using electrocautery or laser surgery.

As always discuss any concerns you may have about your pelvic health with your healthcare provider.

Updated by Andrea Chisholm MD

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