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Polyps of the Cervix

by S. Gene McNeeley, MD

Cervical polyps are common fingerlike growths of tissue that protrude into the passageway through the cervix. Polyps are almost always benign (noncancerous).

About 2 to 5% of women have cervical polyps. They may be caused by chronic inflammation or infection.

Most cervical polyps do not cause any symptoms. Some polyps bleed between menstrual periods or after intercourse. Some become infected, causing a puslike discharge from the vagina. Polyps are usually reddish pink and less than 1/2 inch (about 1 centimeter) in diameter.

Diagnosis

  • A pelvic examination

Doctors can detect polyps when they do a pelvic examination (see Gynecologic Examination).

Treatment

  • Removal of polyps

Polyps that cause bleeding or a discharge are removed during the pelvic examination in the doctor’s office. No anesthetic is needed. Rarely, bleeding occurs after polyps are removed. If it does, a caustic substance, such as silver nitrate, is applied to the affected area with a swab to stop the bleeding.

If symptoms (bleeding and a discharge) persist after polyps are removed, a Papanicolaou (Pap) test or a variation of it (cervical cytology) is done to rule out cancer of the cervix. Also, a sample of tissue from the lining of the uterus (endometrium) is taken and examined under a microscope (endometrial biopsy) to exclude endometrial cancer.