Cervical polyps, uterine polyps and ovarian cysts are quite common. While they are not usually cancerous, they can be. Polyps and cysts can cause pain and abnormal bleeding. They can also make it hard to get pregnant. Learn more about the symptoms, causes and treatment options.
Polyps – cervical and uterine
Treatment and management
When to see your doctor
When to see your doctor
Most polyps are noncancerous (benign), but some may become cancerous (malignant) over time. Cancerous polyps are more likely to be found in women after menopause.
Cervical polyps grow on the cervix (where the vagina connects to the uterus) or along the cervical canal. They usually occur during reproductive years. Cervical polyps may vary in size and shape, but they are usually less than 3cm in diameter.
Uterine polyps grow in the uterus. They can occur at any age but are most common between the ages of 40 to 49. Uterine polyps may vary in size and can appear as one growth or a group of growths.
Symptoms of cervical polyps can include:
Symptoms of uterine polyps can include:
We don’t know the exact cause of cervical polyps, but it may be associated with:
Uterine polyps are caused by an overgrowth of the cells in the lining of the uterus. It’s thought that oestrogen plays a role in their growth. Uterine polyps may be associated with:
Most of the time, cervical polyps are found during a routine cervical screening test.
If you have symptoms, see your doctor. They will ask about your symptoms and medical history. They may also do an examination to look for polyps, and a cervical screening test.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. They may do a pelvic examination and a cervical screening test. You might also need an ultrasound or hysteroscopy (where a small camera shows the inside of your uterus) to check for polyps.
Cervical polyps are often removed during a pelvic examination (polypectomy) in your doctor’s clinic. This is usually a painless procedure. If a polyp is too large, you may have to have it removed in surgery (under general anaesthetic).
If you have symptoms, your doctor may recommend hormonal medicine. If polyps are making it hard for you to get pregnant, you may need surgery to remove them.
Polyps are usually checked after they have been removed, to make sure they are not cancerous.
See your doctor if you have symptoms (e.g. heavy bleeding) that impact your normal routine. You can’t prevent cervical or uterine polyps but you can see your doctor for regular sexual health checks to find and treat polyps early.
Ovarian cysts are sacs filled with fluid that form in an ovary or on its surface. Cysts can affect one or both ovaries. Ovarian cysts are very common. Most are harmless and go away without needing treatment.
Ovarian cysts are not related to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormonal condition.
Most of the time, ovarian cysts don’t cause any symptoms. But symptoms can include:
Each month, as part of your menstrual cycle, tiny sacs (follicles) release an egg. Sometimes these follicles turn into cysts, called functional cysts. Functional cysts are the most common ovarian cysts. But there are other ovarian cysts that form for reasons that are unrelated to your period.
Sometimes ovarian cysts can be cancerous, but this is rare, especially before menopause.
Sometimes ovarian cysts can cause problems. Large cysts can cause your ovary to move or twist, which can be very painful. This can reduce or stop blood flow to your ovary.
Ovarian cysts can also burst (rupture). This can lead to severe pain and bleeding in your pelvis.
To diagnose an ovarian cyst, your doctor will take your medical history and do a physical examination. They may also recommend other tests including:
Most ovarian cysts don’t need treating. They usually go away on their own.
Some cysts may need to be removed. For example, if they:
Cysts can usually be removed through small cuts in your belly (laparoscopy or keyhole surgery). Surgery may remove the cyst only (cystectomy) or the ovary too (oophorectomy). For large cysts, you may need a bigger cut in your belly.
If your cyst is cancerous, treatment will usually involve removing your affected ovary.
Your doctor may also recommend the contraceptive pill to help prevent more functional cysts. But this won’t treat an existing cyst or reduce the chance of getting some types of cysts.
See your doctor if you notice any unusual bleeding. For example, bleeding between periods or after sex.
See your doctor straight away if you have sudden severe pelvic pain or pain with fever, nausea or vomiting.
You will need urgent surgery for ruptured or twisted ovaries.
This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at April 2023.