Cervical polyps are fingerlike growths that start on the surface of the cervix or endocervical canal. These small, fragile growths hang from a stalk and push through the cervical opening.
The cause of cervical polyps is not completely understood. They may be associated with chronic inflammation, an abnormal response to increased levels of estrogen, or clogged cervical blood vessels.
Cervical polyps are relatively common, especially in women over age 20 who have had children. Only a single polyp is present in most cases, but sometimes two or three are found. They are rare in females who have not started menstruating.
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- After intercourse
- After douching
- Between periods
- After menopause
- Abnormally heavy periods (menorrhagia)
- White or yellow mucous discharge (leukorrhea)
Polyps may not cause symptoms.
Exams and Tests
A pelvic examination reveals smooth, red or purple, fingerlike projections from the cervical canal. A cervical biopsy typically reveals mildly atypical cells and signs of infection.
Polyps can be removed during a simple, outpatient procedure. Gentle twisting of a cervical polyp may remove it, but normally a polyp is taken out by tying a surgical string around the base and cutting it off. Removal of the polyp's base is done by electrocautery or with a laser.
Because many polyps are infected, an antibiotic may be given after the removal, even if there are no or few signs of infection. Although most cervical polyps are non-cancerous ( benign), the removed tissue should be sent to a laboratory for further examination.
Typically, polyps are benign and easily removed. Regrowth of polyps is uncommon.
Some cervical cancers may first appear as a polyp. Infections may occur after removal.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call for an appointment if you have:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Abnormally heavy periods
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
Women should call their health care provider for a Pap smear 3 years after the first time they have intercourse, but no later than age 21.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have not obtained a Pap smear at recommended intervals of:
- Every year at first
- For women up over 30: every 2 to 3 years after having three negative, consecutive annual Pap smear tests and a single sexual partner or no sexual partner
- Every year for women who have had multiple sexual partners
- Every year for women who were prenatally exposed to DES
- Every year for women who have weakened immune systems, including those who have HIV or who have taken long-term steroid medications
- After an abnormal Pap smear (at the frequency recommended by your health care provider)
Infections should always be treated in a timely manner.