What is a uterine polyp?

A uterine polyp is also known as an endometrial polyp. These polyps are growths that occur in the lining, or endometrium, of the uterus. They can be about as small as a sesame seed or as big as a golf ball. A single uterine polyp may develop, or multiple polyps may occur together. In most cases, polyps remain in the uterus, but they may move into the vagina.

Some women who have a uterine polyp will experience no symptoms or signs of growth. For women who do develop symptoms, they could include particularly heavy or irregular menstrual periods. Other possible symptoms include bleeding or spotting between periods, postmenopausal bleeding, or infertility.

There is no clear cause for uterine polyps. They occur when there is excessive cell growth in the uterine lining. Hormones may have an effect on the development of polyps, because the way they respond to estrogen is the same way the endometrium responds. Both the endometrium and uterine polyps grow in the presence of estrogen.

Certain women are at higher risk of developing a uterine polyp. Polyps are more likely to occur in women who are between the ages of 40 and 50. Other risk factors include the presence of cervical polyps, high blood pressure, and obesity. The breast cancer drug tamoxifen might also increase a woman's chance of developing uterine polyps.

A doctor might use several tests to diagnose a uterine polyp. Transvaginal ultrasound may be used to create a picture of the inside of the uterus. A doctor might also perform a hysteroscopy to closely examine the inside of the uterus and possibly remove polyps if they are present. Another procedure is called a dilation and curettage, during which a doctor uses an instrument to scrape the lining of the uterus. This procedure may be used to collect tissue for a biopsy or to remove polyps.

If a woman has undergone in vitro fertilization, the presence of polyps can increase her risk of miscarriage. For other women who have had difficulty conceiving, polyp removal could help increase their chances of conception. In most cases, uterine polyps are benign, but a polyp could indicate precancerous conditions in the uterus.

For some women, treatment for a uterine polyp may be unnecessary. In some cases, a polyp may go away on its own. For other women seeking short-term treatment, medications can help minimize the polyp and relieve symptoms for a period of time. A woman might also choose to have a surgical procedure to remove the polyps, including hysteroscopy or dilation and curettage. In severe cases where cancer is likely, a doctor may recommend a hysterectomy to remove the uterus.

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