You may have one polyp or several. Uterine polyps can range in size from just a few millimeters to more than 6 centimeters (2.4 inches) wide. More than 95 percent of uterine polyps are benign, meaning they don’t cause cancer.
Uterine polyps may not cause any symptoms at all. Or you may experience:
- irregular bleeding or spotting
- heavy bleeding
- postmenopausal bleeding
- prolapse, which occurs when a polyp comes through the cervix and protrudes out of the uterus
Smaller polyps may sometimes go away without treatment. Your doctor will monitor you to make sure they don’t get larger.
If you have symptoms, you might need treatment to remove the polyps.
Your doctor will probably perform a pelvic ultrasound if you are having irregular bleeding or other symptoms.
Sometimes an ultrasound alone can’t make the diagnosis of a uterine polyp. In this case, your doctor may use a small camera or scope to look up inside the uterus. This is called a hysteroscopy. It helps diagnose polyps.
Treatments for uterine polyp removal include:
- Polypectomy. This is a procedure to remove a polyp. It can be done in a clinic or hospital. You’ll need local numbing or general (full) anesthesia.
- Hysterectomy. This surgery removes the entire uterus. A vaginal hysterectomy is done through the vagina. In an abdominal hysterectomy, the uterus is removed through an incision in the stomach area. Both of these surgeries are done in the hospital. You will be asleep under general anesthesia for both types.
Preparing for your uterine polyp removal begins with a general health checkup. Let your doctor know about any medical conditions you have.
Tell your doctor about any medications and supplements you take. Some drugs can thin the blood. Your doctor may want you to temporarily discontinue them before your procedure. These include:
- acetylsalicylic acid (Bayer Aspirin)
- ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- naproxen (Aleve)
- clopidogrel (Plavix)
- warfarin (Coumadin)
Natural or herbal supplements can also thin the blood. These include:
- vitamin E
- gingko biloba
You may need certain blood tests before the procedure. This helps your doctor check that you are healthy enough for surgery. One test indicates your blood type in case you need a blood transfusion. This is important for major surgery, like an abdominal hysterectomy.
You may have more imaging tests like a follow-up ultrasound done before your surgery.
If you smoke, you’ll need to stop smoking before your procedure. Smoking of any kind — cigarettes, tobacco, or marijuana — raises your risk of problems during and after treatment.
The American College of Surgeons recommends staying smoke-free for at least four to six weeks before your procedure and four weeks after. This helps you heal better and lowers the risk of complications by about 50 percent.
If you’re menstruating, let your doctor know the date of your last period. A uterine polyp removal procedure is normally scheduled after menstrual bleeding has stopped and before you begin ovulation. This is about 1 to 10 days after your period.
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics and painkillers. Antibiotics may be taken before and after the procedure. This helps to prevent infection.
Before the procedure
Arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure. You won’t be able to drive yourself home after general anesthesia or while taking certain pain medications.
If you need general anesthesia, you won’t be able to eat or drink anything for up to 12 hours before your surgery. Take all prescribed medications with a small sip of water only.
Try to empty your bowels before the procedure. This makes all types of abdominal exams and procedures more comfortable.
If you’re going under general anesthesia, you may have a consultation with the anesthesiologist, either in the days before your surgery or on the same day.
What to expect during and after your uterine polyp removal procedure depends on the type of treatment. You may have local numbing or be completely asleep.
Arrive at the hospital or clinic at your scheduled time. A nurse will also check your blood pressure. Let your doctor or nurses know if you’ve had anything to eat or drink.
If you’re having the procedure with general anesthesia, an anesthesiologist will give you an intravenous medication or a medication that you’ll inhale. This will make you fall asleep. If you’re having local anesthesia, you’ll be given one or more injections. This will numb the area after a few minutes. You may also be given a sedative to help you feel relaxed.
Your doctor might use a scope to help guide the treatment. Air or saline solution may be put into the uterus to expand it.
In a polypectomy, polyps are removed with surgical scissors, forceps (special tweezers), a laser, or an electrical device. The surgeon will use a chemical called silver nitrate to help stop any bleeding.
If you have a hysterectomy or a more complicated polypectomy, you’ll be in a recovery room once you wake up from general anesthesia. You may need to stay in the hospital for one to two days, or longer.
You’ll be able to go home on the same day after a polypectomy with local anesthesia. After a polyp removal procedure, the polyp is sent to a lab for testing. This will confirm whether it’s benign or cancerous.
You may have light bleeding immediately after a uterine polyp removal. You may also have discharge for up to 14 days after the treatment. The fluid may be light pink to brown in color.
Your menstruation cycle will return as normal after a polypectomy. A hysterectomy ends periods because it removes the entire uterus.
Don’t use tampons for at least two weeks after your procedure. Avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercise. You’ll also need to wait until you have fully healed to have sexual intercourse. This may take two weeks or longer after a polypectomy. Recovery time for a hysterectomy takes four to six weeks or longer.
Recovery time also differs among people. Talk to your doctor about when it’s best for you to go back to work and other activities.
See your doctor for a follow-up appointment about a week after your procedure. This is for a checkup to make sure you’re healing well. Your doctor may also let you know the lab results for the polyp.
A successful surgery includes completely removing the polyp, an improvement in symptoms, and healing well.
Uterine polyp removal normally improves symptoms. However, you may have some bleeding or pain after your procedure.
Complications from a uterine polyp removal procedure include infection. A sign of this is a pain or an odor coming from the area. Call your doctor immediately if you have any symptoms of an infection.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, removing uterine polyps can help fertility.
Go to all your follow-up appointments. Let your doctor know of any symptoms. A uterine polyp can grow back after it has been removed. You may need treatment again.
If you have another polyp, your doctor may suggest other treatments to prevent future uterine polyps. These include: