What are Uterine Polyps?
Abnormal growth of cells in the lining of the uterus (endometrium) leads to the formation of uterine polyps, also known as endometrial polyps. They grow on the inner wall of the uterus that protrudes into the uterine cavity are called polyps. Uterine polyps are caused by the overgrowth of endometrial cells – the cells that make up the lining of the uterus. Small polyps can range from the size of a sesame seed (a couple of millimeters) to the size of a golf ball (a few centimeters).
You can have one or many uterine polyps. They usually contained within your uterus, but occasionally, may slip down through the opening of the uterus (cervix) into your vagina. Uterine polyps most commonly occur in postmenopausal women or women going through menopause, although younger women or premenopausal women can get them, too.
Most uterine polyps are noncancerous, although some of them are cancerous or may become cancerous if left untreated. Women taking tamoxifen (a common treatment for breast cancer) are at an increased risk for uterine polyps. High blood pressure and obesity also raise your risk of developing uterine polyps.
Uterine fibroids are not uterine polyps. Thick muscle tissue makes up uterine fibroids; the growths typically develop within the uterine walls. Fibroids differ from uterine polyps because they are don’t develop from uterine lining (endometrial) tissues.
Symptoms of Uterine Polyps
Some cases of uterine polyps have no symptoms, but others can present with:
- Heavy bleeding or frequent menstrual bleeding
- Irregular periods, irregular menstrual bleeding, or bleeding between menstrual periods
- Vaginal bleeding postmenopause
- Difficulty getting pregnant
These symptoms could be indicative of many different gynecological conditions. If you’re bleeding irregularly or having a hard time getting pregnant, make an appointment with your women’s healthcare provider for evaluation.
Diagnosoing for Uterine Polyps
If your doctor suspects you have uterine polyps, he or she might perform one of the following:
In a transvaginal ultrasound, your gynecologist will insert a slender, wand-like device placed in your vagina emits sound waves and creates an image of your uterus, including its interior. Your doctor may see a polyp that’s clearly present or may identify a uterine polyp as an area of thickened endometrial tissue.
A related procedure, known as hysterosonography, also called sonohysterography involves having salt water (saline) injected into your uterus through a small tube threaded through your vagina and cervix. The saline expands your uterine cavity, which gives the doctor a clearer view of the inside of your uterus during the ultrasound.
A thin, flexible instrument with a lens and light at the end is inserted into your vaginal canal and through the cervix to allow the doctor to view your uterine lining.
Your doctor will take a sample of your endometrial tissue and send it to the lab for testing. The tests may reveal if you have uterine polyps. A biopsy can also show if your polyps have become cancerous.
Most uterine polyps are noncancerous (benign). However, some precancerous changes of the uterus (endometrial hyperplasia) or uterine cancers (endometrial carcinomas) appear as uterine polyps. Your doctor will likely recommend the removal of the polyp and will send a tissue sample for lab analysis to be certain you don’t have uterine cancer.
Treatments for Uterine Polyps
Most polyps, especially smaller ones, will resolve on their own. Many doctors will want to keep an eye on the polyps before recommending treatment options. However, if they are larger or if your women’s health care doctor suspects they will cause you problems, they may recommend:
Some hormone therapies, like GnRH agonists and progestins, can ease the symptoms of polyps, however, the relief is usually short-term. Once you stop taking the drugs, the symptoms reappear.
Your doctor can typically remove polyps using a hysteroscope during a hysteroscopic polypectomy, a surgical removal procedure. Once removed, the tissue can be sent to the lab to test for cancerous cells. If the tests indicate that you have uterine cancer, your doctor will want to discuss more aggressive treatment options.
If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of, or suffering from Uterine Polyps, or have questions about it, please see your doctor.
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