Noncancerous growths that develop in the uterus or the cervix
- Most common between the ages of 30 and 50
- Not having had children is a risk factor
- Genetics is not a significant factor
Uterine polyps are painless growths that are attached to the cervix or to the inside of the uterus. The polyps may occur singly or in groups and vary in length up to about 3 cm (1 in). Polyps are usually harmless, but they may become cancerous in rare cases. Uterine polyps are common, especially in premenopausal women over the age of 30.
The reason why uterine polyps form is unknown, but they may develop on the cervix if it is already affected by a cervical ectopy, in which the cells on the surface of the cervix are more delicate than usual. Polyps also sometimes form on the cervix following an infection of the area. Women who have not had children are more likely to develop uterine polyps.
Symptoms of uterine polyps include a watery, bloodstained discharge from the vagina and bleeding after sexual intercourse, between periods, or after the menopause. Such bleeding may also be a sign of a more serious disorder, such as cancer of the cervix.
What might be done?
Your doctor will usually be able to see polyps on the cervix by looking at the cervix while holding your vagina open with an instrument called a speculum. If polyps in the uterus are suspected, further investigations will be arranged, such as ultrasound scanning or hysteroscopy, in which a viewing instrument is inserted through the cervix to view the inside of the uterus.
Treatment of polyps is usually quick and easy. Polyps on the cervix may be removed surgically during examination through the speculum, and uterine polyps can be removed during a hysteroscopy. Mild pain and slight vaginal bleeding are likely for a few days after surgery. Samples of tissue from the polyps are examined under a microscope to make sure that there are no cancerous cells. Uterine polyps may recur after treatment, and then further surgery is usually required.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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