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What is the Difference Between Uterine Polyps vs. Fibroids?
- Created: January 19, 2016
- by: Leah Johnson
Knowing the difference between uterine polyps and fibroids can help you to determine the severity of potential uterine growths. To begin with, let’s define both uterine polyps and fibroids — what are they?
In the uterus, thickly-grown tissues may produce polyps on the uterine lining (also known as the endometrium). Premenopausal women typically shed this unwanted tissue during menstruation but after the period cycle, hormones urge the endometrium to grow again. Tissue polyps can crop up during this regeneration. Uterine polyps tend to grow in round or oval shapes upon the wall of the uterus. Uterine polyps can develop in both premenopausal and post-menopausal women. The growths are usually within the uterus itself, however, doctors say, these polyps may occasionally develop on the cervical canal. Uterine polyps may be potentially (but not necessarily) cancerous.
Fibroids — thick muscle tissue makes up uterine fibroids; the growths typically develop within the uterine walls. Fibroids differ from uterine polyps because they are not made from uterine lining (endometrial) tissues.
Why is it important to know the difference? Because uterine polyps can lead to serious health issues, such as:
- Irregular menstrual periods and instability of “normal” cycles
- Vaginal bleeding
Signs of Uterine Polyps
- Heavy (and longer than normal) periods
- Pain near the hips, legs and during sexual intercourse
- Bladder discomfort
Hormonally-produced uterine growth fibroids vary in size but they can also yield the same systems as polyps, as well as disrupt the fertility process. Basic uterine fibroids are tissue growths, but they are NOT noted to be cancerous and are not considered to be a life-threatening concern. They usually develop during a woman’s child-bearing years. There are three areas of the body that are susceptible to fibroid development. The most common type is Intramural, where the tissue growth is wedged into the wall of the uterus; it can move into other locations. Submucosal fibroids are inside the uterine lining and grow inward. Subserosal uterine fibroids develop outside of the uterine lining. Ultrasound procedures can determine if these growths are present. Fibroid symptoms include heavy bleeding, pelvic pain, constipation and enlarged uterus.
What do uterine growths look like? Here’s the difference: Polyps grow from endometrial tissue that attaches to the lining of the uterus. They’re usually very small; no bigger than a couple of centimeters in diameter. They can regress. Polyps do not automatically lead to cancer but doctors may suggest removing and testing one or several, if possible. Fibroids, which can vary in size from miniscule to extremely large, may shrink in post menopausal women but they do not regress. There are noninvasive methods to remove fibroid tissues, but not so for polyps. Uterine polyps may be controlled with hormone-balancing drugs but the symptoms will not cease completely, especially if the patient discontinues taking the medication. Several types of surgical procedures for removing polyps are also options.
What to Do
At every age, all women should have a gynecological exam at least once a year, says the medical team at the Fibroid Treatment Collective in California. In particular, says founder and teacher Dr. Bruce McLucas, it is very important for women to understanding the difference between uterine polyps and fibroids so that they can assess their own healthcare decisions.