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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

What Is It?

The cervix is a tubelike channel that connects the uterus to the vagina. Cervical polyps are growths that usually appear on the cervix where it opens into the vagina. Polyps are usually cherry-red to reddish-purple or grayish-white. They vary in size and often look like bulbs on thin stems. Cervical polyps are usually not cancerous (benign) and can occur alone or in groups. Most polyps are small, about 1 centimeter to 2 centimeters long. Because rare types of cancerous conditions can look like polyps, all polyps should be removed and examined for signs of cancer.

The cause of cervical polyps is not well understood, but they are associated with inflammation of the cervix. They also may result from an abnormal response to the female hormone estrogen.

Cervical polyps are relatively common, especially in women older than 20 who have had at least one child. They are rare in girls who have not started menstruating. There are two types of cervical polyps:

  • Ectocervical polyps can develop from the outer surface layer cells of the cervix. They are more common in postmenopausal women.

  • Endocervical polyps develop from cervical glands inside the cervical canal. Most cervical polyps are endocervical polyps, and are more common in premenopausal women.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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