What are cervical polyps?
Cervical polyps are common growths that form in the uterine cervix. The exact reason why polyps form is not understood, but their development may be related to increased levels of estrogen. Polyps may also develop as the result of chronic inflammation in the cervical region or congestion in the cervical blood vessels. The size of the polyps varies, and some women may have multiple polyps. Cervical polyps most often occur in women over age 20 and are rare in premenstrual girls.
Some women with cervical polyps have no symptoms at all, while others may have abnormal bleeding during menstruation, after sexual intercourse, or following vaginal douching. The large majority of polyps are benign (not cancerous). In rare cases, though, polyps may contain precancerous or cancerous cells.
It is rare for cervical polyps to result in serious complications. However, if vaginal bleeding becomes severe, the significant loss of blood could lead to shock, which could require emergency hospitalization and blood transfusions. Symptoms of significant blood loss include light-headedness, dizziness, fainting, or difficulty breathing.
The treatment of cervical polyps is removal, which can be performed in a relatively minor office procedure.
Cervical polyps are rarely a serious condition, but severe vaginal bleeding can lead to significant blood loss. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, experience bleeding that will not stop, rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, pale skin, or fainting.
Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for cervical polyps but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.
What are the symptoms of cervical polyps?
Cervical polyps accompany irritation and inflammation of the cervix that can result in a number of symptoms. The symptoms can vary in intensity among individuals.
Common symptoms of cervical polyps
You may experience symptoms related to cervical polyps daily or just once in a while. Any of the following symptoms can be severe:
- Heavy bleeding during menstrual period (menorrhagia)
- Vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse
- Vaginal bleeding following douching
- Vaginal bleeding that is abnormal
- Vaginal bleeding that occurs after menopause
- Vaginal bleeding that occurs between menstrual cycles
- Vaginal discharge that contains white or yellow mucus
Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition
In some cases, cervical polyps can accompany a serious condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care if you, or someone you are with, have any of these serious symptoms including:
What causes cervical polyps?
The exact cause of cervical polyps is not known. It has been suggested that cervical polyps are caused by an unusual response to increased amounts of estrogen in the lower uterine wall. Cervical inflammation that occurs for a period of time and congestion of the blood vessels in the cervix are also possible causes of cervical polyps.
What are the risk factors for cervical polyps?
A number of factors increase the risk of developing cervical polyps. Not all women with risk factors will get cervical polyps. Risk factors for cervical polyps include:
- Age (over twenty years old)
- Pregnancy and giving birth
- Previous cervical polyps
How are cervical polyps treated?
Treatment for cervical polyps begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. To determine whether you have cervical polyps, your health care provider will ask you to undergo a pelvic examination (colposcopy).
Some people with cervical polyps may never have any symptoms. When symptoms do occur, women with cervical polyps will undergo a brief office procedure to remove the polyp(s). Cervical polyps are most commonly benign, but because some cervical cancers may begin as a polyp, a biopsy of the tissue will be performed to analyze the cells for possible cancer. Normally, removed polyps do not reoccur; however, having had a cervical polyp does increase the risk for more polyps to develop within the cervix.
What are the potential complications of cervical polyps?
Treatment for cervical polyps includes a procedure to remove the polyp. Serious complications of cervical polyps are rare. You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of cervical polyps include:
- Severe bleeding