What are uterine polyps?
Uterine polyps are abnormal growths along the inner lining of the uterus (endometrium). They can adversely affect menstruation and fertility. In many cases, polyps are benign, however, they can become cancerous.
Polyps can have a flat base (sessile) or be elongated (pedunculated), and can grow a few millimeters or several centimeters in circumference. In addition, polyps can develop one at a time, or several at once. These growths are typically non-cancerous, however, they can cause problems with menstruation or fertility.
Symptoms of uterine polyps
Uterine polyps are more likely to form in women over 40. Chances of developing uterine polyps increase if you are overweight, have high blood pressure, or take the breast cancer drug tamoxifen. If you have uterine polyps, you may experience:
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Bleeding or spotting between periods
- An unusually heavy flow during menstrual periods
- Vaginal spotting or bleeding after menopause
Polyps can also affect fertility. Removing polyps can increase your chances of becoming pregnant if you have been struggling to do so.
Diagnosing uterine polyps
Your doctor will inquire about your menstrual and pregnancy history. Be sure to report any unusual symptoms, such as excessive bleeding or spotting between periods. Your doctor will additionally perform a gynecological exam and order additional tests should it be necessary to confirm a diagnosis. Let’s explore different options your doctor might take when determining the presence of uterine polyps.
During a transvaginal ultrasound, your doctor will insert a thin handheld device into the vagina. This device will capture images of the interior of the uterus. Your doctor may also perform a sonohysterogram in tandem with an ultrasound, which involves injecting saline into the uterus.
Saline expands the uterine cavity and enables your doctor to see the area more clearly. Your doctor can identify fully formed polyps or buildup of endometrial tissue through this process.
Your doctors can recommend you to take a hysteroscopy to diagnose or treat uterine polyps as it provides visibility into female infertility causes. During this procedure your doctor will insert a long, thin tube with a lighted telescope (hysteroscope) through the vagina and into the uterus, which produces images of the uterus.
Your doctors can recommend you to undergo an endometrial biopsy to identify abnormal cells. During this procedure your doctor collects a sample of endometrial tissue, which is then sent to the laboratory for assessment. The results will determine whether or not you are experiencing symptoms of uterine polyps.
Treatment for uterine polyps
Treatment may not be necessary if the polyps do not produce any symptoms or affect fertility. Should treatment be necessary, your doctor will either recommend surgical removal or medications.
If you choose to undergo surgical removal of uterine polyps, your doctor can remove the specimen and send them to a laboratory for examination. You can also use medication to treat uterine polyps by administering the correct drugs that regulate hormonal imbalances, and may serve as a temporary therapy. However, symptoms typically return after you stop taking the medications.