Uterine polyps refer to the excessive growth of cells that are found on the inner wall of the uterus. This is commonly seen in the lining of the uterus or the endometrium layer, which is why it is sometimes referred to as endometrial polyps. Sizes range from a few millimetres to several centimetres. These cells are attached to the uterine wall by a large base or a thin stalk. A woman can have only one uterine polyp but the numbers can increase too. Most uterine polyps remain inside the uterus but there are instances when they can protrude through the opening of the uterus or the cervix and eventually into the vagina.
Signs and symptoms of uterine polyps
Uterine polyps don’t usually manifest any symptoms and so they can be hard to detect. Some of the signs of uterine polyps are:
Who is at risk of uterine polyps?
- Irregular menstrual bleeding like having frequent and unpredictable periods, and these periods have irregular lengths and heaviness
- Bleeding between menstrual periods
- Excessively heavy menstrual periods
- Vaginal bleeding even after menopause
The exact cause of uterine polyps
is unknown, but they are sensitive to the hormone oestrogen. You may be more likely to develop polyps if any of the following are true:
Diagnosing and treating uterine polyps
- Age 40 to 50
- Pre or peri-menopausal
- Obese, or having a body mass index of 30 or more
- Currently or formerly taking an anti-oestrogen drug like tamoxifen
- High blood pressure
- Undergoing drug therapy for breast cancer
- Having cervical polyps and other vaginal infection
If the doctor suspects that you have uterine polyps, he or she will perform a series of test to verify this disease process. These tests include:
- Hysterosalpingogram (HSG): An exam using an x-ray, in which a radiologist injects a contrast dye into the uterus and fallopian tubes to make it easier to see polyps and other tissue.
- Transvaginal Ultrasound: A device will be inserted into the vagina and this will send out sound waves to create an image of the uterus. Most uterine polyps can be visualized using this method.
- Hysteroscopy: A procedure using a scope inserted through the vagina into the uterus to view the polyps and determine their size and extent. Part or all of a polyp can also be removed for microscopic examination by inserting instruments through the hysteroscopic tube.
- Excision through traditional methods: A sample of a polyp may be obtained through curettage (scraping or scooping) or biopsy (removing tissue via an instrument resembling a drinking straw), or after a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus).
Uterine polyps are not usually cancerous but there are some stages of uterine cancers that may appear as uterine polyps. This is why once the polyp is removed from the uterus, further lab tests are needed to identify if there are cells that are malignant.
Some say that uterine polyps can lead to infertility. This issue still requires further tests but if a woman has uterine polyps and she’s experiencing infertility, the removal of the polyps could boost her fertility.
The presence of uterine polyps
also increases the risks of miscarriage for pregnant women
. Women, who enter into in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment, are generally advised to have uterine polyps removed before conducting any embryo transfer
There is no specific method for preventing uterine polyps, although keeping yourself at a healthy weight, with normal blood pressure readings are the best methods of lessening your risk factors.