According to a Health Alert from Johns Hopkins Medicine, cervical polyps are grape-like growths from the surface cells lining the cervix. They may occur singly or in groups, and in some women, large polyps may interfere with conception by creating a barrier to sperm migration.
An About.com Menstrual Disorders article writes these fragile grape-like growths hang from a stalk, pushing though the cervical os (the opening of the cervix into the endocervical canal).
Most cervical polyps are first discovered during a routine pelvic exam, says WebMD.
Most women have only one polyp, but some women have two or three, reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Cervical polyps are rare in young women who haven’t started their period.
About.com says these polyps are most common in women in their 40s and 50s who have more than one child. Additionally, cervical polyps can be common during early pregnancy, presumably due to higher levels of circulating hormones.
The cause of cervical polyps is not entirely understood. WebMD says they may result from infection, long-term inflammation, an abnormal response to an increase in estrogen levels, or congestion of blood vessels in the cervical canal.
Cervical polyps may not cause symptoms. If they do, NIH lists one symptom is abnormally heavy periods. Another common symptom women notice is abnormal vaginal bleeding that occurs after douching, after intercourse, after menopause and between periods.
Johns Hopkins’ Alert says cervical polyps can cause heavy, watery, and bloody vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding after a bowel movement and pelvic cramps. WebMD adds that polyps may be inflamed and rarely can become infected, which causes vaginal discharge of yellow or white mucus.
Cervical polyps don’t need to be removed unless they bleed, are very large, or have an unusual appearance. About.com says health care providers can easily remove them during a pelvic exam by simply twisting it or tying surgical string around the base of the polyp and cutting it off.
The remaining base of the polyp is removed using electrocautery or laser surgery.