It’s very common to confuse uterine polyps and fibroids. However, it’s essential to know the difference to ensure you can take care of your health by making informed decisions. Below, we uncover the similarities and differences to help you understand polyps vs fibroids.
What are Uterine Fibroids?
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in or on the uterus. Fibroids are made up of smooth muscle cells and connective fibrous tissue, and can range in size, location, or number.
Uterine fibroids are a common condition: according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, up to 80 percent of women will develop uterine fibroids by age 50.
Symptoms of Uterine Fibroids
Many women don’t often notice any symptoms from fibroids. However, fibroids can include various symptoms, depending on where they are located or as they grow in size. Some of the symptoms associated with uterine fibroids include the following:
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Excessive or prolonged periods
- Stomach bloating
- Pain during intercourse
You can use our symptom checker to determine if you need to see a doctor for a fibroid diagnosis.
How are Uterine Fibroids Diagnosed?
Uterine fibroids are typically discovered and diagnosed during a routine pelvic exam with an OBGYN. To confirm a diagnosis, the doctor may order specific tests and refer the patient to a fibroid specialist. At USA Fibroid Centers, our fibroid specialists are interventional radiologists, which means they have expertise using advanced imaging techniques to diagnose and treat fibroids.
An ultrasound can diagnose the presence of fibroids and measure their size. Bloodwork may be necessary to determine if you suffer from anemia or any other disorders. While an ultrasound is the main method of diagnosis, the doctor may use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) testing to provide more detail if additional tests are needed. These tests can help by showing the size of the fibroids and where they are located.
What are Uterine Polyps?
Uterine polyps, also known as endometrial polyps, are abnormal growths on the inside of the uterus. These growths come from the tissue that lines the uterus, called the endometrium, and are made up of glands, stroma, and blood vessels. Uterine polyps most commonly appear inside the fundus, which is the top part of the uterus and across from the cervix. However, they can also appear on the cervical opening.
While uterine polyps are most common in women between the ages of 40-49, they can affect any woman during her reproductive and post-menopausal years. The actual cause of polyps is unknown; however, many researchers believe it has something to do with hormone levels. During your menstrual cycle each month, your estrogen levels rise and fall. The changing estrogen levels cause your uterine lining to thicken and shed, and polyps can form when too much of your lining grows.
Symptoms of Uterine Polyps
Abnormal uterine bleeding is the most common symptom of uterine polyps, occuring in 68% of all women with the condition. Heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding is also a symptom of fibroids, however, polyps are not typically accompanied by the other symptoms listed previously for fibroids.
The symptoms of uterine polyps include:
- Irregular periods
- Bleeding between periods
- Heavy period bleeding
- Bleeding after menopause
Because of their similar symptoms, the best way to determine if your heavy bleeding is being caused by uterine fibroids or polyps is to request a diagnosis from a doctor.
How are Uterine Polyps Diagnosed?
To accurately diagnose uterine polyps, your doctor may perform one of four tests: a transvaginal ultrasound, a hysteroscopy, an endometrial biopsy or curettage, which is a procedure where the doctor collects a piece of the polyp for testing.
A transvaginal ultrasound is performed using a probing instrument that emits sound waves and creates an image of the uterus. The sound waves bounce off your internal organs to create a sonogram which will provide a computerized image of your uterus.
During a hysteroscopy, a thin, lighted tube called a hysteroscope is inserted into the vagina. The tube has a camera which allows the doctor to see the inside of the uterus and the cervix.
With an endometrial biopsy, your doctor will use a suction catheter to collect a specimen of cells to examine under a microscope. After removal, the doctor may also send a tissue sample to get a lab analysis to determine if the growth is cancerous.
What’s the Difference Between Uterine Fibroids and Polyps?
The main difference between fibroids and polyps is the tissue they are made of. As mentioned earlier, fibroids are made of muscle cells and connective tissue, whereas polyps are made up of the tissue that lines the uterus, also known as endometrial tissue. Fibroids can cause a range of painful symptoms, while the main symptom of polyps is abnormal bleeding. Polyps are more common in your 40s and 50s, and uterine fibroids can occur in younger age groups. Our newest Fibroid Ambassador, Melissa Muganzo-Murphy, was diagnosed at 23!
Uterine fibroids and polyps also have a few things in common. One of the most common things about uterine fibroids and uterine polyps is their unpredictability. Also, both types of growth can vary in size, number, and location. These conditions are rarely life-threatening, however, it’s still important to have accurate information to ensure the best outcomes for your health.
Treatment for Uterine Fibroids and Polyps
There is a misconception that hysterectomy, the surgical removal of the uterus, is the only treatment option for uterine fibroids. We know this isn’t true. Several treatments are available, especially for women who want to avoid surgery and keep their ability to have children.
Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE) is a non-surgical treatment for fibroids. During a UFE procedure, the flow of blood is cut off from the fibroids which helps alleviate symptoms and allows them to shrink over time. One of the major benefits of this treatment option is that it preserves fertility. Another benefit of UFE over surgery is the short recovery time: with UFE, patients are back to their regular activities within 1-2 weeks, while a hysterectomy can have a recovery period of 6-8 weeks.
Treatment for uterine polyps can range from mild to invasive. Hormone releasing medications may be used for women with mild cases of polyps. They can help alleviate the symptoms, but they can return if the medication is stopped. Doctors can often use the same procedures for polyp removal as for diagnosis, such as hysteroscopy or curettage.During these procedures, a curette or other small surgical tool is inserted into the vagina and cervix to remove the polyps.If cancer cells are found in the polyps, you may require surgery to take out the uterus, called a hysterectomy
Get Treatment with USA Fibroid Centers
At USA Fibroid Centers we know how scary it can be to have uterine fibroids or uterine polyps. Our network of clinics is the nation’s #1 medical facility for uterine fibroids treatment. We exclusively offer Uterine Fibroid Embolization (UFE). UFE is a non-surgical treatment for symptomatic fibroids that can be done in an outpatient setting and requires little downtime for recovery.
If you would like to speak with an expert to determine if you have uterine polyps or fibroids, give us a call today at 855.615.2555. We can help you schedule a consultation to determine the cause of your symptoms. If you’ve been having irregular or extremely painful periods, don’t wait to find out what’s causing it. Reach out to us today to take the first step towards a healthier you.