A cervical polyp is a small growth within or near the surface of the cervix. The cervix is the opening at the lower end of the uterus which opens into the vagina. Cervical polyps are usually benign (non-cancerous), and rarely cause symptoms.
Cervical polyps are formed when a group of cells within the cervix form an abnormal growth. Cervical polyps are relatively common. They are seen more often in women over 20 years of age who have given birth to many children. They are rare before puberty and after menopause.
Most cervical polyps are benign, but all should be removed and examined with a microscope. Malignant changes may occur, and cancer of the cervix may first be seen as a large polyp. The chance of malignant change in a cervical polyp is less than 1%.
Many cervical polyps do not cause symptoms. They are found by chance during a routine pelvic exam.
Cervical polyps may cause vague symptoms such as the following: vaginal spotting or bleeding after intercoursevaginal bleeding after douchingvaginal bleeding after exercisevaginal bleeding in a woman who has been through menopause abnormally heavy menstrual periods pinkish or yellow vaginal discharge (polyps are seldom associated with purulent discharge)
It is not known what causes cervical polyps. Their growth may be aided by estrogen, a female hormone, or by chronic cervical infection, known as cervicitis.
Little can be done to prevent cervical polyps. Routine pelvic exams may decrease the risk of cancer of the cervix developing from the polyp.
Many cervical polyps do not cause symptoms and are found by chance during a routine pelvic examination that includes a Pap smear. During a pelvic exam, the cervix, vagina, and vulva are checked for signs of changes. To do a Pap test, a healthcare professional uses a small spatula and a brush to gently scrape cells from the cervix. These cells are sent to a lab for testing.
Since 99% of polyps are benign, there are no serious long-term problems. Vaginal bleeding patterns may be unpredictable. There is a less than 1% risk that cervical polyps may turn into cancer.
A cervical polyp, in and of itself, is not contagious and does not pose a risk to others. However, sexually transmitted infections associated with cervical polyps, such as chlamydia and human papilloma virus, are contagious.
A cervical polyp can be removed with a simple procedure in the healthcare professional's The professional gently twists the stalk of the polyp and removes it. Removal of a polyp is called a polypectomy.
Other methods include tying the base of the polyp to minimize bleeding. Larger polyps with a thick stalk may be removed using electrical current, a procedure known as LEEP. Larger polyps may also be vaporized with laser surgery. These large polyps may require removal in an outpatient surgical center rather than the office due to the risk of excessive bleeding.
Removal of the polyp usually produces minimal cramping and bleeding. Possible side effects of laser surgery and LEEP include: foul-smelling vaginal dischargecervicitis, which is inflammation of the cervixbleedingallergic reactions to the local anesthesia
Women who have an abnormal Pap smear accompanied by a cervical polyp will need close follow-up with pelvic exams and Pap smears. Cervical polyps may recur if the stalk was not completely removed.
Routine pelvic exams are done to check for any recurrence of the cervical polyp. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.
Understanding Your Body, Stewart et al., 1987
Maternity and Gynecological Care, The Nurse and the Family, Bobak et al., 1989.