What You Need to Know about Uterine Polyps
In most cases, uterine polyps don’t cause any symptoms. Although they’re almost always benign, about 1% of cases can become a malignant condition. Want to know more about them?
Uterine polyps are protuberances that grow in the inner wall of the uterus. They have different sizes, ranging from a few to several inches. Some can even reach the size of a golf ball.
Experts don’t yet know how widespread uterine polyps are. This is because, in many cases, they don’t cause any symptoms. Therefore, the women don’t consult their doctors. However, experts estimate that its prevalence is between 10 and 24% of the total number of women worldwide.
They most commonly appear in women aged between 40 and 65. Nevertheless, there have even been cases of uterine polyps in 12-year-old girls and 81-year-old women. Therefore, they can appear at any age.
What are uterine polyps?
Uterine polyps are common in women who are approaching menopause. In this regard, their formation is one of the causes of postmenopausal bleeding.
They’re small growths in the inner wall of the uterus. This wall is called the endometrium, which is why they’re also known as “endometrial polyps”. They occur due to cell proliferation and the consequent growth of the endometrium.
A woman can have one or more uterine polyps. They usually remain within this organ, but sometimes slip through the cervix into the vagina. They’re more common in women who are approaching menopause or who already went through it.
The vast majority of uterine polyps are benign. Only 0.5 to 1% of them are malignant. Generally, malignant polyps are those that occur after menopause, have a size of more than 1 inch, and cause postmenopausal bleeding.
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Symptoms and diagnosis
Most uterine polyps don’t cause symptoms, and they’re usually detected during a routine examination. In cases where there are symptoms, these usually include the following:
- Abnormal bleeding. Very heavy bleeding during menstruation (menorrhagia) – this bleeding is unrelated to menstruation. In other words, when it occurs after menopause (metrorrhagia), or bleeding after having sex.
- Infertility– the difficulty or inability to conceive may be related to this condition.
- Pain – this occurs when the polyps move to the vagina.
Medical professionals diagnose uterine polyps through various tests such as:
- Transvaginal ultrasound. This is carried out by introducing a rod-shaped device into the vagina. This then creates an image through sound waves.
- Hysteroscopy. A flexible, thin, lighted tube is inserted into the vagina and cervix. This, as a result, allows medical professionals to see the insides of the organ.
- Endometrial biopsy. Performed with a suction catheter. The medical professional takes a sample that’s then examined in a laboratory. However, it doesn’t have a hundred percent reliability.
You should also read: 5 Facts About Uterine Fibroids That Every Woman Should Know
Causes of uterine polyps
To date, there’s no definite cause to explain their appearance. However, there are several identified risk factors.
Science doesn’t know the reason why they manifest. Hypotheses have been proposed about their possible genetic, hormonal, and other origins. However, there are no conclusive results so far.
Nevertheless, experts have detected that there are some risk factors. They are the following:
- High estrogen levels
- The use of tamoxifen – this is a drug that doctors indicate for breast cancer, and it increases the risk of uterine polyp formation
- Postmenopausal hormone therapy
- Other diseases – Lynch syndrome, Cowden syndrome, and other rare diseases are associated with their development
Other interesting data
The usual treatment for this condition is surgical removal or polypectomy. This procedure is performed by uterine curettage or scraping or by surgical resection through hysteroscopy. The latter method is the safest and most effective.
Experts state that medical professionals should perform surgery in the following cases:
- Symptomatic premenopausal women
- Asymptomatic premenopausal women with polyps larger than 0.59 inches in diameter
- Symptomatic and asymptomatic postmenopausal women
In cases where the polyps arise from the ingestion of tamoxifen, the medical professionals should carefully study each particular situation. In this regard, the recommendation is that all women go to their gynecologist for periodic checkups to detect any problem.