Cervical polyps

  • Definition
    • Cervical polyps are fingerlike growths on the lower part of the uterus that connects with the vagina (cervix).

  • Alternative Names
    • Vaginal bleeding - polyps

  • Causes
    • The exact cause of cervical polyps is not known. They may occur with:

      • An abnormal response to increased levels of the female hormone estrogen
      • Chronic inflammation
      • Clogged blood vessels in the cervix

      Cervical polyps are common. They are often found in women over age 20 who have had children. Polyps are rare in young women who have not started having their period (menstruation).

      Most women have only one polyp, but some women have two or three.

  • Symptoms
    • Polyps do not always cause symptoms. When symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Exams and Tests
    • The health care provider will see smooth, red or purple fingerlike growths on the cervix during a pelvic exam.

      A cervical biopsy will be performed. Most of the time, the biopsy will show cells that are consistent with a benign polyp. Rarely, there may be abnormal, precancerous, or cancer cells in a polyp.

  • Treatment
    • The provider can remove polyps during a simple, outpatient procedure.

      • Smaller polyps may be removed with gentle twisting.
      • Electrocautery may be needed to remove larger polyps.

      The removed polyp tissue should be sent to a lab for further tests.

  • Outlook (Prognosis)
    • Most polyps are not cancerous (benign) and are easy to remove. Polyps do not grow back most of the time. Women who have polyps are at risk of growing more polyps.

  • Possible Complications
    • There may be bleeding and slight cramping for a few days after removal of a polyp. Some cervical cancers may first appear as a polyp. Certain uterine polyps may be associated with uterine cancer.

  • When to Contact a Medical Professional
    • Call your provider if you have:

      • Abnormal bleeding from the vagina, including bleeding after sex or between periods
      • Abnormal discharge from the vagina
      • Abnormally heavy periods

      Call your provider to schedule regular gynecological exams. Ask how often you should receive a Pap test .

  • Prevention
    • See your provider to treat infections as soon as possible.

  • References
    • Choby BA. Cervical polyps. In: Pfenninger JL, Fowler GC, eds. Pfenninger and Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2011:chap 135.

      Ellenson LHl, Pirog EC. The female genital tract. In: Kumar V, Abbas AK, Aster JC, eds. Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 22.

      Katz VL. Benign gynecologic lesions. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 18.