What is a Uterus Polyp?
Polyps that develop in the uterus originate from an overgrowth of cells within the lining of the uterus. As they mature, the polyps affix themselves directly to the lining of the uterus or, in some cases, by a stem-like structure. Uterine polyps are generally small and malleable, as opposed to fibroids, which are comprised of firm muscle and are much larger in size. Ranging in size from that of a small seed to as large as a ping pong ball, there is no known cause for uterine polyps. It has been suggested that hormones may contribute to uterus polyp development, but a direct correlation has not been established. Increased estrogen levels have been documented in women with uterus polyps and it has been asserted that increased levels may contribute to polyp growth. Women who have taken tamoxifen, an estrogen disruptor used in breast cancer treatment, are at an increased risk of developing uterine polyps.
It is not uncommon for women to be diagnosed as having multiple polyps at one time. The presence of a uterus polyp can cause a variety of symptoms including irregular menstruation, bleeding between menstrual periods, and vaginal bleeding following menopause. It is also possible for a woman to have uterine polyps without experiencing any symptoms at all. Medical attention should be sought at the first sign of any menstrual irregularities or pelvic discomfort.
A variety of tests may be used to confirm the presence of a uterus polyp. A transvaginal ultrasound utilizes sound waves, introduced into the vagina through a long, slender device, to create an image of the uterus making the polyps visible. In order to obtain a clearer view of the interior of the uterus, hysterosonography may be administered, which involves the introduction of saline to expand the uterine cavity. A hysteroscopy allows for an examination of the uterus as well as the removal of polyps that are found, eliminating the necessity of a secondary procedure.
There are a several treatment approaches for uterine polyps that are dependent on recurrence and severity. An annual physical and Pap smear may detect the presence of a uterus polyp for women who are asymptomatic, or not experiencing any symptoms. In cases where the polyps are small and there are no symptoms, a wait and watch approach is generally taken. Smaller polyps will usually go away without treatment. Larger polyps may be treated for the short-term with hormonal medications to shrink the polyp and alleviate symptoms.
Uterus polyps are generally benign, or noncancerous, though in persistently recurrent cases, a biopsy may be taken as a precaution. When a biopsy is necessary, a procedure called curettage is performed. This procedure uses a long, thin metal instrument outfitted with a loop on the end, called a curet, to scrape the interior walls of the uterus and remove the polyp. Biopsy results that are indicative of the presence of cancer may require a hysterectomy, or the surgical removal of the uterus.
Women in their 40s and 50s who are obese, have high blood pressure, or have experienced cervical polyps in the past are at an increased risk for developing uterine polyps. The risk of infertility as a result of uterine polyps is still a matter of much controversy. Uterine polyps may increase the risk of miscarriage for pregnant women who have undergone in vitro fertilization (IFV).