Uterine Polyps

1 What are Uterine Polyps?

Uterine polyps are masses or growths inside the uterus, originating from the endometrium (inner lining of the uterus).

Uterine polyps are caused by an overgrowth of cells in the uterus. Uterine polyps may appear as a mound with the flat wide base, or as an elongated stalk that can protrude outside the cervix, and can vary in sizes ranging from tiny to size of a golf ball.

A patient can have one or several uterine polyps. Most cases of uterine polyps are benign or noncancerous, but some eventually turn into cancer. Uterine polyps also interfere with pregnancy or getting pregnant, and some may cause bleeding and pain. 

Uterine polyps are different from another somewhat similar condition called uterine fibroid, which are growths originating from smooth muscles of the uterus.

Though it can happen to women of all ages, uterine polyps are more common in those near or have completed menopause.

2 Symptoms

Not all women with uterine polyps exhibit symptoms. Some experience nothing while others only have slight spotting for bleeding. If uterine polyps do cause symptoms, they include:

  • Irregular menses often described as unpredictable and varying greatly in length and heaviness of flow
  • Or, excessively heavy menses
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Infertility

You have to see a doctor if you experience vaginal bleeding after menopause, between menses or have irregular menses.

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3 Causes

The exact causes of uterine polyps are not completely understood, but it may have something to do with swings in hormones.

The lining of the uterus grows and breaks down in response to changes in hormone levels, which is responsible for the menstrual cycle.

Uterine polyps themselves sensitive and grows in the presence of estrogen.

However, the process on how normal uterine cells turn into polyps is not known. 

4 Making a Diagnosis

Making a diagnosis of uterine polyps is done by performing several tests.

You are very likely to report vaginal bleeding to a family doctor or gynecologist, which can diagnose uterine polyps by using transvaginal ultrasound and hysteroscopy to view the insides of the uterus. A biopsy of the tissue will determine if it is cancerous or noncancerous.

Here are things you can do to before the appointment:

  • Write down all your symptoms, vitamins and supplements you take
  • Have a family member or spouse to accompany you during checkups so help remember all important information and give assistance

You can ask questions to the doctor about your condition.

Here are some good questions to ask:

  • What could cause my symptoms?
  • What tests do I need?
  • What are the medicines that can treat my condition? What are the side effects?
  • Do I have to undergo surgery?
  • Does it affect my fertility?
  • Are the growths cancerous?

Your doctor may inquire you the following:

  • Your symptoms, onset and their severity
  • Things that appear to worsen or improve your symptoms
  • Previous history of having growths in the uterus or cervix
  • Fertility issues and desire to get pregnant
  • History of cancers in the breast, colon or endometrium in the family

5 Treatment

Uterine polyps are treated using drugs and surgery. In many cases, the doctor might simply recommend watchful waiting especially if the polyps are small and cancer is very unlikely. Many cases with small uterine polyps actually resolve on their own without treatment.

The doctor may also prescribe medications that counteract the hormones that promote symptoms of uterine polyps. These include progestins and gonadoptropin-releasing hormone agonists. These medicines only work for short-term, and uterine polyps tend to grow back once you stop taking them.

Surgery involves removal of the polyps. Most doctors simply attach instruments attached on the other end of the hysteroscope during hysteroscopy. The hysteroscope is inserted into the vagina until it reaches the cervix and uterus. The removed tissue is sent to the lab to determine if it is cancerous or not. This is advantageous because there is no need for skin incisions and stitches, and recovery is quick.

6 Risks and Complications

You can be at risk for uterine polyps if you have the following:

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