Uterine polyps are fleshy growths that appear on the inner lining of the uterus and extend into the cavity of the uterus. They are usually benign, but a small minority of them may be precancerous.

Also called endometrial polyps, uterine polyps are small growths that are generally benign.

However, they can cause complications for some people, such as difficulty with conception and heavy menstrual bleeding. Some polyps may also be precancerous.

This article reviews what uterine polyps are, their symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

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Uterine polyps are small, often benign, growths that appear in the lining of the uterus. Uterine polyps are relatively common, and a person may develop more than one polyp.

They are usually smaller than 1 centimeter in size. However, some can grow to fill the entirety of the uterus. In some cases, they can grow along the lower part of the uterus and extend from the cervix.

The polyps can be attached to the uterus lining via a stalk, or they can have a large flat base.

They typically appear in premenopausal and postmenopausal people. However, they are most common in individuals between 40 and 49 years old.

Uterine polyps are typically benign. In rare cases, they may be cancerous or precancerous. However, the chance of developing malignant uterine polyps is low.

A 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis examined 51 studies that reported data on 35,345 people. The authors found that the overall prevalence of malignant uterine polyps was 2.73%.

They also found that the chance of malignancy is less common in those who were premenopausal, with a prevalence of 1.12%. This figure increased to 4.93% in those who were postmenopausal.

Additionally, the chance of malignancy increased if the polyps caused symptoms. The chance of malignancy was 5.14% in those who experienced symptoms and 1.89% in those who did not.

Uterine polyps may not cause any symptoms.

If symptoms do occur, they can include:

Uterine cancer can cause similar symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that a person contacts a doctor if they experience symptoms for 2 weeks or longer.

The exact cause of uterine polyps is unknown. They develop as a result of an overgrowth of the endometrial tissue. Experts theorize that high estrogen levels may play a role in their development.

Risk factors may include:

The treatment for uterine polyps will depend on:

  • a person’s symptoms
  • the risk of malignancy
  • fertility concerns

In people who are asymptomatic, the polyps may resolve without treatment. In these cases, a doctor may recommend watchful waiting.

If treatment is necessary, it typically involves surgical removal.

A surgeon may perform a hysteroscopy. During the procedure, a doctor inserts a camera device called a hysteroscope into the uterus through the vagina and cervix.

They then add saline into the uterus to allow them to see the inner lining of it more clearly via an image projected onto a screen. The surgeon then cuts and removes the polyp or polyps from the uterus.

An alternative surgical option is dilation and curettage. This is a procedure that removes tissue from the uterus. The surgeon will use a small instrument to open the cervix, and a special tool called a curette to remove the tissue inside the uterus.

If the polyps are precancerous, a doctor may recommend different treatment options. This may include removal of the uterus and other therapies, including chemotherapy and radiation if cancer is detected, though this is rare.

Are there any home remedies?

Asymptomatic uterine polyps can sometimes resolve on their own. However, there are no known home remedies that will definitely shrink a uterine polyp.

A person should contact a doctor if they begin experiencing symptoms to discuss possible treatment options.

It may not be possible to prevent uterine polyps from developing.

However, a person may be able to lower their risk factors by maintaining a moderate weight and managing their blood pressure.

Uterine polyps can cause some complications.

They include:

In rare cases, the polyps may become malignant.

Uterine polyps are usually benign. In addition, some people will not experience any symptoms, and their polyps may resolve without treatment.

Doctors can treat symptomatic polyps with surgical removal or other therapies. However, there is a chance that they will return. In these cases, a person may require repeated surgery.

Progesterone hormone therapy after surgery may help to prevent the polyps from recurring as it helps thin the inside layer of the uterus.

A doctor can often make a diagnosis through a hysteroscopy. During this procedure, they insert a tube with a camera into the uterine cavity.

They may also perform:

  • ultrasounds, although these may be less accurate
  • hysterosalpingography, which is an X-ray of the uterus with a dye to help highlight the interior
  • saline sonography, which is an ultrasound scan done after filling the uterine cavity with saline

The final diagnosis occurs when the doctor removes the polyp and sends it to a lab for analysis. The lab can test for cancer.

A person should consult a doctor after 2 weeks of experiencing symptoms that could indicate the presence of polyps. A person may also want to consider contacting a doctor if they experience any unusual menstrual cycles for them.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests that those having difficulty conceiving may consider speaking with a doctor if they cannot get pregnant within 1 year of regular intercourse or 6 months in people over 35 years old.

Though polyps may not be the root cause, a doctor may check for them when a person reports fertility issues.

A person may not need to do much preparation for an examination. The doctor’s office should provide any specialized instructions for the person on the day of the exam.

Before the examination, a person may want to prepare some questions. Some examples include:

  • What tests may I need?
  • If any polyps are present, will they interfere with conception?
  • What are the chances they will clear on their own?
  • What treatment options do you recommend?
  • Will the office provide a follow-up to check for regrowth?
  • Am I at a high risk for cancer?
  • How soon will results come back regarding the malignancy of the polyps?

Fibroids are tumors made of muscular cells. They are most often benign and can grow in the uterine wall, uterine cavity, and on the outside of the uterus.

They share some similarities, including:

  • some risk factors, such as having obesity
  • complications and symptoms such as infertility, heavy bleeding, and pain
  • rarely become cancerous

They do not have the same treatment or causes as polyps. A person will need to contact a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Uterine polyps are benign, small growths that appear on the lining of the uterus. They may cause no symptoms and require no treatment to resolve on their own.

When they do cause symptoms, a person may experience heavy menstrual bleeding, irregular menstrual bleeding, abnormal vaginal discharge, and cramping or pain.

If the uterine polyps are not causing symptoms, a doctor may suggest waiting to see if they resolve without treatment. Otherwise, they will suggest surgical removal.