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Cervical polyps are fingerlike growths on the lower part of the uterus that connects with the vagina (cervix).
- Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The cause of cervical polyps is not completely understood. They may occur with:
- An abnormal response to increased levels of the female hormone, estrogen
- Chronic inflammation
- Clogged blood vessels in the cervix
Cervical polyps are common, especially in women over age 20 who have had children. Polyps are rare in young women who have not started their period (menstruation).
Most women have only one polyp, but some women have two or three.
- Signs and tests
During a pelvic examination, the health care provider will see smooth, red or purple, fingerlike growths on the cervix. A cervical biopsy will show cells that are mildly abnormal and signs of infection.
The health care provider can remove polyps 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. The polyp's base is removed with electrocautery or a laser.
Because many polyps are infected, you may have to take an antibiotic after the removal, even if there are no signs of infection. Although most cervical polyps are not cancerous (benign), the removed tissue should be sent to a laboratory and checked further.
- Expectations (prognosis)
Typically, polyps are not cancerous (benign) and easy to remove. Polyps do not usually grow back.
Some cervical cancers may first appear as a polyp. Infections may occur after removal.
- Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment if you have:
- Abnormal bleeding from the vagina
- Abnormal discharge from the vagina
- Abnormally heavy periods
Call your health care provider for a Pap smear 3 years after the first time you have intercourse, but no later than age 21.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have not gotten a Pap smear at these time periods:
- Every year at first
- Every 2 to 3 years for women over age 30 after having 3 negative Pap smear tests in a row, and 1 sexual partner or no sexual partners
- Every year for women who have had more than 1 sexual partner
- Every year for women who were exposed to DES in their mother's womb
- Every year for women who have a weakened immune system, including those who have HIV or who have taken steroid medications for a long time
- After an abnormal Pap smear (as often as your health care provider recommends)
See your health care provider to treat infections as soon as possible.
Review Date: 2/19/2008
Reviewed By: Peter Chen, MD, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.