What Are Cervical Polyps?
Cervical polyps are growths that form on the cervix, the narrow opening between the uterus and vagina. Polyps may form on the surface of the cervix or inside the vaginal canal. The growths may be long and thin or shaped like a bulb on a stalk, and can grow to more than 1 inch long. Most cervical polyps are benign (noncancerous), though in rare cases they may proceed to cancer.
While the exact cause of cervical polyps is not well understood, they are associated with several risk factors, including:
- Chronic inflammation — Hormones, bacterial infections and irritants (such as scented soaps or douches) can inflame the cervix.
- Clogged blood vessels — These can disrupt blood flow near the cervix, leading to polyp development.
- Elevated estrogen levels — Hormonal imbalances may result in excess growth of cervical tissue.
While cervical polyps often do not cause problems, symptoms may include:
- Abnormally heavy periods — Menstrual flow may be watery and much heavier than usual.
- Irregular menstrual cycles — Periods become unpredictable, which may make it harder to conceive.
- Spotting — Light bleeding may appear between periods, after menopause, or it may occur after sexual intercourse, especially during pregnancy.
- Vaginal discharge — This may be yellow or white in color. A foul odor may signify infection.
While single or smaller polyps are often left alone, larger or more numerous ones may require removal. Doctors may employ the following methods:
- Electrocautery or laser surgery — These procedures may be necessary to remove large polyps and prevent regrowth.
- Ring forceps — This instrument surrounds the base of the polyp and snips it off cleanly.
- Surgical string — This specialized thread is tied around the polyp to cut it off at the base.
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