What Is It?
The cervix is the lower part of the uterus, a tubelike channel that opens into the inside of the uterus, or uterine cavity. The other end of the cervix is located inside the vagina, at the far end of the vaginal canal. Cervical polyps are growths that usually come from the cervical-canal opening in the vagina. The polyps are usually cherry-red to reddish-purple or grayish-white. They vary in size and often look like bulbs on thin stems. Cervical polyps are usually benign (not cancerous) and can occur alone or in groups. Most polyps are small, about 1 centimeter to 2 centimeters long. Because rare types of cancerous conditions can look like polyps, all polyps should be removed and examined for signs of cancer. The cause of cervical polyps is not well understood, but they are associated with inflammation of the cervix. They also may result from an abnormal response to the female hormone estrogen or develop from a small area of prominent cervical blood vessels.
Cervical polyps are relatively common, especially in women older than 20 who have had at least one child. They are rare in girls who have not started menstruating. Cervical polyps can develop from the outer surface layer cells of the cervix. These are known as ectocervical polyps. Ectocervical polyps are more common in postmenopausal women. Cervical polyps that develop from cervical glands inside the canal are known as endocervical polyps. Most cervical polyps are endocervical polyps, more common in premenopausal women who have had at least one child.
Cervical polyps may not cause any symptoms. However, you may experience:
- Discharge, which can be foul-smelling if there is an infection
- Bleeding between periods
- Heavier bleeding during periods
- Bleeding after intercourse
Sometimes, cervical polyps can cause problems with fertility.
If you have a cervical polyp, you usually won’t be able to feel it or see it yourself. Cervical polyps are discovered during a routine pelvic exam or evaluation for bleeding or while getting a Pap test.
A polyp sometimes will be shed on its own during sexual intercourse or menstruation. However, most polyps need to be removed because they tend to grow indefinitely.
Regular visits to your doctor for an annual Pap test and pelvic exam are important because a direct examination is the best way to identify cervical polyps.
Cervical polyps are removed surgically, usually in a doctor’s office. A special instrument, known as a polyp forceps, is used to grasp the base of the polyp stem, and the polyp is plucked with a gentle, twisting motion. Bleeding is usually brief and limited. Nonprescription, mild pain medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol and other brand names) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others) can help to relieve discomfort or cramping during or after the procedure.
The polyp or polyps are sent to a pathology laboratory for examination. You may receive antibiotics if the polyp shows signs of infection. If the polyp is cancerous, then treatment will depend on the extent and type of cancer identified.
Large polyps and polyp stems that are very broad usually need to be removed in an operating room using local, regional or general anesthesia. You will not need to stay in the hospital overnight. Cervical polyps may grow in the future from different areas of the cervix, usually not from the original site. Regular pelvic examination will help to identify and treat polyps before they cause symptoms.
When To Call A Professional
If you experience vaginal discharge, bleeding after intercourse or bleeding between periods, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as possible for a pelvic exam.
Overall, the prognosis is excellent. The vast majority of cervical polyps are not cancerous. Once removed, polyps tend not to come back.
Diseases and Conditions Center
All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.