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Uterine Fibroids vs Uterine Polyps: Understanding the Differences

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The female uterus is a complex reproductive organ that, on occasions, can be affected by various conditions. Two common conditions affecting the uterus are fibroids and polyps. Both conditions are growths. But how do they differ? 

The difference between uterine fibroids and uterine polyps is their composition. Fibroids consist of dense, fibrous tissue (hence the name), whereas polyps consist of endometrial tissue – the tissue found in the uterine lining.

Why's it important to recognize the difference?

Both types of growth can cause irregular periods, heavy bleeding, or fertility issues, but by definition, fibroids are not cancerous. On the other hand, uterine polyps can potentially become cancerous. For this reason, monitoring is vital to detect any change in your symptoms or the growth's size.  

What are fibroids?

Fibroids, also known as leiomyomas, are non-cancerous growths that develop within the uterus's muscular wall or even outside of it. Most women feel stressed when they're first diagnosed with fibroids. But the good news is that they are benign tumors with no significant health risks. Sure, they can be uncomfortable and, in some cases debilitating, but the key takeaway is they can be easily treated without surgery.

Uterine fibroids are surprisingly common, and between 75-80% of women will be diagnosed with one at some point in their lives. Most fibroids appear during a woman's childbearing years, many of which will be asymptomatic. While some will resolve independently, others can lead to many inconvenient and uncomfortable symptoms. Therefore, it's essential to discuss your treatment options and not sit back and suffer from the issues related to fibroids:

What are uterine polyps?

On the other hand, uterine polyps are small, usually benign growths that attach to the inner lining of the uterus, known as the endometrium. These polyps are often caused by an overgrowth of cells in the endometrial tissue and can develop as a response to hormonal changes, such as an excess of estrogen.

What are the symptoms?

Not all women experience symptoms of polyps. They are a form of growth that can come and go away independently. However, it's vital to watch for signs indicating lingering or increasingly aggressive symptoms resulting from persistent polyps. Symptoms can include:

Uterine fibroids vs uterine polyps – Why diagnosis is so important

Firstly, every woman needs to be aware of what's happening inside her body. The more you know, the better you can adapt your lifestyle and diet to maintain good overall health. However, it's imperative to know which type of growth you have for the simple reason that polyps can lead to more serious health issues, including:

Although fibroids can also lead to some of these health issues, they are easily treated with non-surgical embolization. While doctors can treat polyps, non-invasive techniques may not be suitable for troublesome polyps, and surgical removal may be required.

Taking a closer look at uterine fibroids vs uterine polyps

Although uterine growths form in similar locations, fibroids and polyps are different. In physical terms, polyps are made from a different tissue to fibroids, and they remain very small, usually less than a couple of centimeters in diameter. However, they can also regress and disappear of their own accord. We want to stress that polyps don't always lead to cancer, but because there is a risk it could happen, it's best to remove one for testing to assess the situation.

On the contrary, fibroids can vary significantly, with some growing to the size of a watermelon and stretching the uterus. While a fibroid may shrink, it cannot regress.

How are uterine growths diagnosed?

Diagnosing uterine fibroids and uterine polyps usually involves a combination of medical history evaluation, physical examination, and imaging tests. Ultrasound, hysteroscopy, and biopsy may be utilized to confirm the presence and characteristics of these growths.

How are uterine polyps treated?

Treatment depends on a patient's symptoms and other factors that could increase the risk of uterine cancer. If the polyps aren't causing symptoms and a woman is still in her childbearing years, her healthcare provider will likely recommend monitoring it. The polyp may go away. However, if you've been through the menopause and the polyps show symptoms, you may need treatment.

Treatments include:

Medication – Drugs like progestins that balance the hormones or gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists that shrink the fibroid can relieve the symptoms. However, these are likely to return when the medication is stopped.

Uterine polypectomy – Often, a polyp can be removed during hysteroscopy. With this treatment, it's possible to visualize and remove the polyp simultaneously. It can then be sent to the lab for testing.

If the polyp is cancerous, additional surgery may be required, such as a hysterectomy to remove the uterus.

What about uterine fibroid treatment?

Uterine fibroid treatment varies depending on the fibroids' size, number and location and any symptoms they may be causing. Small fibroids can often be left alone and monitored.

If you are experiencing symptoms from your fibroids, treatment is usually required to help. Your treatment plan will depend on factors including the number of fibroids you have, their size and location, your symptoms, whether you want children, and whether you want to preserve your uterus.

Treatment options can include:

If you are experiencing any discomfort or pain from uterine fibroids or uterine polyps or require a diagnosis, come and talk to the experienced, caring team at MINT, and we can discuss your best options.

Call us today or request an appointment online. We currently have 5 offices in St Louis, MO and Wentzville, MO and Swansea, IL, Evergreen Park, IL and Chicago, IL.

 

Photo atribution: image by cookie_studio on Freepik

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