Uterine polyps are essentially abnormal growths that are seen usually attached to the inner walls of the uterus as well as the uterine cavity. Abnormal growth of the cells lining the uterus wall (endometrium) results in the development of uterine polyps, also known as endometrial polyps. These polyps (abnormal growths) are usually benign (non-cancerous) in nature although a few cases may turn out to have malignant (cancerous) uterine polyps.
The most severe cases of malignant uterine polyps are treated with a uterine polypectomy procedure which involves removing the polyps.
The uterine polyps may range in size from a few millimeters to larger than a golf ball. These polyps are attached to the inner uterine wall with a thin stalk at the base. Polyps may rarely grow alone and are usually seen in groups and may remain contained within the uterus. At times, they may slip down from the uterus and enter the vagina through the cervix.
Uterine polyps are most commonly seen in women who are experiencing menopause or have already achieved it as well as in women of younger age.
Signs and Symptoms of Uterine Polyps
The most commonly seen signs and symptoms of uterine polyps include:
- Irregular menstrual bleeding
- Bleeding between menstrual periods
- Excessive menstrual bleeding
- Post-menopausal vaginal bleeding
Causes of Uterine Polyps
Although the exact cause for the growth of uterine polyps is not yet known scientists have determined that hormones play a major role in the development of this condition.
Uterine polyps have been found to grow in response to the production and level of estrogen in the body.
Diagnosing Uterine Polyps
In case the doctor suspects the presence of uterine polyps, they may advise you to undergo one of the following diagnostic tests:
- Trans-vaginal ultrasound – This test is performed by inserting a thin, wand-like ultrasound device into the vagina which creates a clear image of the inner uterus with the help of sound waves. Polyps can be identified visibly with this method as well as determine the size and number of the polyps.
- Hysteroscopy – The doctor requires inserting a thin and flexible tube attached with a light source (hysteroscope) into the vagina and cervix to your uterus. This allows the doctor to view the inside of the uterus more clearly and to determine the presence of any abnormal growth (polyps) on the uterine wall.
- Endometrial biopsy – This diagnostic test involves inserting a small thin tube (catheter) with a suction attachment to it into the vaginal opening and up till the uterus. This allows the doctor to collect a sample of the uterine polyps for pathological testing.
In case the uterine polyps are large in size and numbers the doctor will usually recommend a uterine polypectomy to treat the condition.
The main aim of the uterine polypectomy surgical procedure is to remove the abnormal growths (polyps) that are seen growing attached to the inner wall of the uterus (endometrial polyps) and to relieve you of the resultant painful symptoms.
This surgery used to performed using conventional open-type surgical method however, recent advances in surgical technology allow doctors to perform this surgery using minimally invasive method known as ‘hysteroscopy’.
This is a minor surgical procedure and is mostly performed as an outpatient surgery with very less hospital stay required, if any. The surgeon might use local anesthesia in order to numb the vagina and the uterus to avoid discomfort and pain to you during the surgery.
The surgeon uses a hysteroscope – a set of thin and flexible tubes – with an attached light-source and a video camera as well as other similar tubes that are attached with special miniaturized surgical instruments, to view the uterine polyps and to remove them using the surgical instruments.
A sample of the removed polyp is usually sent to for additional testing to decide the chances of the polyps recurring, if at all.