Polyps are abnormal tissue growths that most often look like small, flat bumps or tiny mushroom like stalks. Most polyps are small and less than half an inch wide.
Most polyps are benign, meaning they’re noncancerous. But because they are due to abnormal cell growth, they can eventually become malignant, or cancerous. Your doctor can help determine if the growth is a polyp by performing a biopsy. This involves taking a small sample of tissue and testing it for the presence of cancerous cells.
Treatment for polyps depends on their location, size, and whether they’re benign or malignant.
What are the symptoms of polyps?
Each type of polyp can cause unique symptoms based on location. Below are some common polyp types, their locations, and symptoms.
Type of polyps
cervix, where the uterus connects to the vagina
typically no symptoms, but can include bleeding during menstruation (heavier) or sex, or an unusual discharge
uterus, usually uterine lining
infertility, irregular menstrual bleeding, vaginal bleeding
What are cervical polyps
Cervical polyps are small, elongated tumors that grow on the cervix. The cervix is the narrow canal at the bottom of the uterus that extends into the vagina. The cervix connects the uterine cavity and the upper portion of the vagina. It acts as the passageway for sperm to fertilize an egg, which could result in pregnancy. During labor, the cervix becomes thinner and wider. This allows the baby to pass through the birth canal.
Polyps are fragile structures that grow from stalks rooted on the surface of the cervix or inside of the cervical canal. If someone has polyps, usually only one polyp is present, and two or three at most.
According to Harvard University, they’re most common in women in their 40s and 50s who’ve had more than one child. Polyps almost never occur in young women before the start of menstruation. Polyps are also common during pregnancy. This may occur due to an increase in the hormone estrogen.
Symptoms of cervical polyps
Polyps on the cervix may not cause any noticeable symptoms. However, see your gynecologist right away if you experience vaginal discharge of white or yellow mucus, or abnormally heavy periods.
You should also call your doctor if you experience vaginal spotting or bleeding:
- after sexual intercourse
- between periods
- after douching
- after menopause
Some of these symptoms can also be signs of cancer. In rare cases, polyps represent an early phase of cervical cancer. Removing them helps reduce this risk.
Ask your doctor how often you should get regular pelvic exams and Pap tests. Recommendations can vary depending on your age and health history.