Tissue growths inside the uterus can cause abnormal uterine bleeding or infertility. Learn about tests and treatment.
Uterine polyps are growths attached to the inner wall of the uterus that expand into the uterus. Uterine polyps, also known as endometrial polyps, form as a result of cells in the lining of the uterus (endometrium) overgrowing. These polyps are usually noncancerous (benign), although some can be cancerous or can 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.
There can be one or many uterine polyps. They usually stay within the uterus, but they can slip through the opening of the uterus (cervix) into the vagina. Uterine polyps are most common in people who are going through or have completed menopause. But younger people can get them, too.
Uterine polyps attach to the uterus by a large base or a thin stalk. They can grow to be several centimeters in size. Uterine polyps can cause irregular menstrual bleeding, bleeding after menopause, very heavy menstrual flow or bleeding between periods.
Signs and symptoms of uterine polyps include:
Some people 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 estrogen in the body.
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.
The following tests might be used to diagnose uterine polyps:
Transvaginal ultrasound. A slender, wandlike device placed in the vagina emits sound waves and creates an image of the uterus, including its insides. A polyp might be clearly present or there might be 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 the uterus through a small tube placed through the vagina and cervix. The saline expands the uterus, which gives a clearer view of the inside of the uterus during the ultrasound.
Most uterine polyps are benign. This means that they're not cancer. But, some precancerous changes of the uterus, called endometrial hyperplasia, or uterine cancers appear as uterine polyps. A tissue sample of the removed polyp is analyzed for signs of cancer.
During a transvaginal ultrasound, you lie on an exam table while a health care provider or a medical technician puts a wandlike device, known as a transducer, into the vagina. Sound waves from the transducer create images of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Treatment for uterine polyps might involve:
If a uterine polyp contains cancer cells, your provider will talk with you about the next steps in evaluation and treatment.
Rarely, uterine polyps can recur. If they do, they need more treatment.
Your first appointment will likely be with your primary care provider or a gynecologist. Have a family member or friend go with you, if possible. This can help you remember the information you receive.
Make a list of the following:
For uterine polyps, some basic questions to ask include:
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
Some questions your provider might ask include: