Ask The Expert
October 12, 2010
Endometrial polyps are growths of the endometrium. This is the tissue that lines the cavity of the uterus.
The polyps range in size from a few millimeters to an inch or more in diameter. We don't know for sure what causes polyps. We do know that the tissue of the endometrium is normally active. It grows each month in response to hormones and then sheds as the menstrual period. Scientists think polyps may form when something interferes with this normal cycle.
Polyps often cause no symptoms. They are found by chance on an ultrasound examination of the uterus. When symptoms occur, abnormal bleeding is the most common. Polyps cause heavy and prolonged menstrual periods. They may also cause irregular bleeding in between periods. Occasionally a polyp causes cramping in the lower abdomen. A small number of polyps, about 1% to 2%, contain precancerous cells or cancer cells.
Some small polyps go away without treatment, but generally surgical removal is recommended. Removing polyps is a way to see if they are cancerous or not (benign). Surgery also treats any associated symptoms.
The surgery is done by inserting a small fiber optic scope (called a hysteroscope) into the uterus. The surgeon finds the polyp and then removes it with a grasping instrument or small wire cautery device.
A dilation and curettage (D&C) is often done to remove any residual abnormal tissue. The surgery is usually done as an outpatient (you don't have to stay overnight in a hospital). Complications from a D&C are uncommon.