Definition & Overview
Polyps are abnormal growths that can form on the cervix, which is the narrow canal that extends from the uterus into the vagina. Polyps tend to grow in stalks originating from the surface of the cervix, and may occur in groups of twos or threes. They are usually very small, with a diameter of less than 1 cm, except in some cases wherein they grow bigger than usual. They are also usually bright red in color and have a spongy texture and stems attached to them.
Although cervical polyps are usually benign, they are sometimes linked to cervical cancer. In fact, in some cases, they are considered early signs of the disease. Despite this, they are fairly easy to remove and their removal can keep them from growing back.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
The procedure is recommended for patients with cervical polyps particularly those that have unusually large size and appearance. Cervical polyps removal is also indicated if the patient experiences some symptoms due to the abnormal growths, such as:
- Leukorrhea, or thick white or yellowish discharge
- Vaginal spotting
- Vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse and between periods
- Menorrhagia or abnormally heavy periods
However, not all women who have polyps experience noticeable symptoms. Thus, in many cases, polyps are not immediately detected and diagnosed unless a woman undergoes routine pelvic exams. To confirm a diagnosis, a biopsy of the abnormal growth may be taken for closer analysis. If there are abnormal cells or neoplastic changes detected in the growths, these are considered as symptoms of the early stages of cervical cancer.
The growth of cervical polyps are linked to:
- Increased oestrogen levels
- Obstruction in the blood vessels
- Chronic inflammation of the cervix, vagina, or uterus, which could be due to a bacterial infection, herpes, yeast infections, HPV infections, hormonal changes, pregnancy, or abortion
Those who are at risk of cervical polyp include women who:
- Have had children or multiple pregnancies
- Are in the peri-menopausal stage
On the other hand, they occur very rarely in pre-menstrual girls and post-menopausal women.
Patients with existing polyps have a high risk of developing more abnormal growths. However, if they get the polyps removed, the growths are not likely to grow back. Thus, most women are advised to have their cervical polyp removed, regardless of whether they experience symptoms or not.
How is the Procedure Performed?
There are several methods used for the removal of cervical polyp, namely:
- Traditional surgical removal - During a traditional surgical removal, the doctor removes the polyp either by twisting the polyp at its base, tying a surgical string around its base and cutting it off, or removing the polyp using ring forceps. Gently twisting the polyp off is mostly effective for smaller polyps.
- Liquid nitrogen
- Laser surgery
- Electrocautery ablation – In this method, the polyp is removed using an electronically heated needle. This method is most effective in removing larger polyps.
- Hysteroscopy – A hysteroscopy is sometimes necessary to remove endometrial polyps and growths that are located in the deeper areas of the cervix.
All of these methods can be performed at the doctor’s office or clinic on an outpatient basis, with no need for any pain relief medication. The procedures are safe, simple, and non-invasive. Nevertheless, it is normal for patients to experience some slight cramping and bleeding for a few days.
There are some cases, however, wherein the patient needs to stay in the hospital overnight, such as when the polyp is very large and has to be removed in an operating room. These procedures may require that the patient be placed under local, regional, or general anaesthesia.
After a cervical polyp removal, the removed tissue is sent to a lab for closer analysis. If the polyp is infected, the patient will be given antibiotics after the removal procedure.
Possible Risks and Complications
Cervical polyp removals are generally low-risk procedures, and the post-removal prognosis is generally good. The procedure is, in fact, very effective in reducing the risk of complications and malignancy. However, there is a small risk of infection, which can be managed with antibiotics.
- MacKenzie IZ., Naish C., Rees CMP, Manek S. “Why remove all cervical polyps and examine them histologically?” An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2009.02169.x/full