What to know about bumps on the cervix
A doctor might discover a bump on the cervix during a routine pelvic examination or a Pap smear test.
This article provides an overview of what a bump on the cervix might mean. We also cover the symptoms, causes, treatments, and risk factors, as well as guidance on when to see a doctor.
In most cases, bumps on the cervix are not dangerous.
The cervix is the tissue that connects the uterus, or womb, with the vagina.
The cervix has two distinct parts lined in two different types of cell:
- glandular cells, which line the area of the cervix closest to the uterus
- squamous cells, which line the part of the cervix closest to the vagina
The glandular and squamous cells meet to form an area called the transformation zone. This area undergoes many changes during a woman's lifetime, especially during pregnancy and childbirth.
Cells in the transformation zone continuously change, making this area very susceptible to abnormal cell growth.
A number of conditions can cause a bump to develop on the cervix, and the following sections will outline these.
A cervical polyp is a noncancerous, bulb shaped growth that develops on the cervix. Polyps may vary widely in appearance, size, and color.
It is unclear why cervical polyps develop, but some possible causes of cervical polyps can include:
In most cases, cervical polyps are benign, with only 1 in 1,000 cases being cancerous. A healthcare provider can remove cervical polyps in a straightforward procedure.
Pregnant women can develop small white bumps called nabothian cysts. They can form when excess skin cells clog the mucous glands lining the cervix.
Women may not know that they have a nabothian cyst until their doctor finds one during a routine pregnancy examination.
Although nabothian cysts do not usually cause symptoms, they can rupture and release foul-smelling discharge or blood.
Fibroids, or myomas, are noncancerous tumors that usually develop in the muscle tissue of the uterus. Though rare, fibroids can also grow in the cervix.
Fibroids can vary in size, and some may grow big enough to cause weight gain and swelling in the lower abdomen.
Fibroids are almost always benign. Cancerous fibroids are rare, occurring in fewer than 1 in 1,000 cases.
Cervical cancer can affect one or both types of cell lining the cervix. That being said, the American Cancer Society estimate that up to 9 out of 10 cases of cervical cancer affect the squamous cells.
Bumps on the cervix can cause a range of symptoms, or no symptoms at all.
A bump on the cervix may cause the following symptoms:
- heavy or painful periods
- spotting or bleeding between periods
- foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- pressure or swelling in the lower abdomen
- frequent urination
- pain in the lower back, pelvis, or legs
- pain during sex
- bleeding after sex
To diagnose the underlying cause of a bump on the cervix, a healthcare provider will collect the following information:
- family history
- medical history
- current medications
They may also perform a physical exam and other diagnostic tests:
- Ultrasound tests use sound waves to create pictures of the structures inside the abdomen and pelvis.
- MRI scans use a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the tissues inside the body.
- Hysteroscopy can help diagnose conditions affecting the uterus. During the procedure, a healthcare professional will guide a thin, tube-like device called a hysteroscope through the vagina and into the uterus. The hysteroscope captures images inside the uterus and transmits them to a computer.
- Laparoscopy uses a camera attached to the end of a thin tube to examine the female reproductive organs.
- Biopsies involve removing small samples of tissue from the lining of the cervix. After removal, the doctor will send the sample to a laboratory for analysis. Biopsies can detect the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells.
Untreated fibroids can cause problems during pregnancy.
In general, fibroids do not cause serious complications. However, untreated fibroids can increase the risk of infertility and cause problems during pregnancy, such as:
- placental ablation
- preterm delivery
Having fibroids does not raise the risk of developing cancerous fibroids.
Nabothian cysts rarely cause serious complications and will often go away without treatment.
However, large nabothian cysts can deform the shape of the cervix. These cysts may require excision or surgical removal.
When to see a doctor
People should seek medical attention if their symptoms start to interfere with their daily lives.
People may also want to contact their doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms:
- bleeding after menopause
- spotting in-between periods
- unusual or foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- severe pain in the lower back, legs, or pelvis
Benign growths, such as cervical polyps and nabothian cysts, often do not require treatment.
However, even benign growths can cause problems. Cysts and polyps can grow large enough to distort the shape of the cervix and may require surgical removal or drainage.
Treatment options for bumps on the cervix can include:
Examples of surgical treatments for bumps on the cervix can include the following:
- Polypectomy: This method involves removing a polyp from the cervix using forceps or string. This procedure usually takes place in an outpatient clinic.
- Electrocautery ablation: This method uses heat from an electric current to remove a cervical cyst.
- Myomectomy: During this procedure, a surgeon will remove fibroids via a small incision in the lower abdomen.
A doctor may recommend using a power morcellator to break up fibroids. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) say that these devices can cause undiagnosed cervical cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body.
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist (GnRHa) medications can treat symptomatic cervical fibroids.
GnRHa medications cause the body to produce less estrogen and progesterone, which effectively shrinks fibroids without affecting fertility.
Taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can help reduce cervical bump-related cramps and lower back pain.
Treatments for cervical cancer include:
- radiation therapy
- radical hysterectomy, in which a surgeon will remove the uterus, cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, a portion of the vagina, and any surrounding lymph nodes
Taking birth control pills that contain estrogen can increase a person's risk of developing a bump on their cervix.
It remains unclear precisely what causes bumps on the cervix. However, certain factors can increase a person's risk of developing a bump on their cervix.
Risk factors for developing bumps on the cervix include:
- taking birth control pills that contain estrogen
- having a family history of fibroids, polyps, cysts, or cervical cancer
- experiencing inflammation of the cervix due to infections such as HPV, herpes, or yeast infections
- being overweight or obese
- having a weakened immune system
Maintaining a healthy body weight and monitoring hormone levels may help reduce the risk of developing a bump on the cervix.
However, leading a healthy lifestyle does not guarantee complete protection against conditions that can cause a bump on the cervix.
Attending routine pelvic exams and Pap smear tests can help detect cervical abnormalities early on.
The widespread use of regular Pap smear tests in recent decades has led to a significant reduction in the rates of cervical cancer diagnoses and deaths.
Most bumps on the cervix resolve on their own and do not increase a person's risk of developing cancerous growths.
Often, people do not know that they have a bump on their cervix until a doctor finds one during a routine exam.
Common types of bump that can develop on the cervix include:
- cervical polyps and fibroids
- nabothian cysts
Although less common, cervical cancer can also cause bumps to develop on the cervix.
Outcomes for people who have cervical cancer have improved drastically over the past few decades thanks to the widespread use of screening procedures such as Pap smear tests.