Uterine polyps are tissue growths inside the uterus that can cause abnormal uterine bleeding or infertility. Learn about uterine polyp tests and treatment.
Uterine polyps are growths attached to the inner wall of the uterus that extend into the uterine cavity. Overgrowth of cells in the lining of the uterus (endometrium) leads to the formation of uterine polyps, also known as endometrial polyps. These polyps are usually noncancerous (benign), although some can be cancerous or can eventually turn into cancer (precancerous polyps).
Uterine polyps range in size from a few millimeters — no larger than a sesame seed — to several centimeters — golf-ball-size or larger. They attach to the uterine wall by a large base or a thin stalk.
You can have one or many uterine polyps. They usually stay contained within your uterus, but occasionally, they slip down through the opening of the uterus (cervix) into your vagina. Uterine polyps most commonly occur in women who are going through or have completed menopause, although younger women can get them, too.
Uterine polyps attach to your uterus by a large base or a thin stalk and can grow to be several centimeters in size. Irregular menstrual bleeding, bleeding after menopause, excessively heavy menstrual flow or bleeding between periods could signal the presence of uterine polyps.
Signs and symptoms of uterine polyps include:
Some women have only light bleeding or spotting; others are symptom-free.
Seek medical care if you have:
Hormonal factors appear to play a role. Uterine polyps are estrogen-sensitive, meaning they grow in response to circulating estrogen.
Risk factors for developing uterine polyps include:
Uterine polyps might be associated with infertility. If you have uterine polyps and you're unable to have children, removal of the polyps might allow you to become pregnant, but the data are inconclusive.
If your doctor suspects you have uterine polyps, he or she might perform one of the following:
Transvaginal ultrasound. 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 (his-tur-o-suh-NOG-ruh-fee) — also called sonohysterography (son-oh-his-tur-OG-ruh-fee) — 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.
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 removal of the polyp and will send a tissue sample for lab analysis to be certain you don't have uterine cancer.
During a transvaginal ultrasound, your care provider or a medical technician inserts a wandlike device (transducer) into your vagina while you lie on your back on an exam table. The transducer emits sound waves that generate images of your pelvic organs.
For uterine polyps, your doctor might recommend:
If a uterine polyp contains cancerous cells, your doctor will talk with you about the next steps in evaluation and treatment.
Rarely, uterine polyps can recur. If they do, you might need more treatment.
Your first appointment will likely be with either your primary care provider or a gynecologist.
For uterine polyps, some basic questions to ask include:
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
Some questions your doctor might ask include: