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What is the Difference Between Uterine Polyps vs Fibroids?

As females, we typically have an intuitive sense when our bodies are not functioning as usual. In the case of growths like polyps versus fibroids, there are usually accompanying indicators that draw attention to the issue. You might have observed irregular or increased vaginal bleeding or perhaps a noticeable change in the size of your uterus. 

However, discerning whether these symptoms stem from a polyp or a fibroid can be challenging. While some symptoms may overlap, there are distinct variations between polyps and fibroids, which we explain in this article about uterine polyp vs fibroid. 

Uterine fibroids and endometrial polyps originate within the uterus. While they are frequently detected when a woman experiences menstrual irregularities or fertility issues, it’s worth noting that they can also remain absolutely asymptomatic in many cases. 

What are Uterine Polyps?

Uterine polyps are gentle, finger-shaped outgrowths situated within the endometrium, the lining of the uterus. They can emerge individually or in groups and are sometimes referred to as endometrial polyps. Typically, uterine polyps are prevalent during menopausal transitions among women experiencing infertility or those with heavy or irregular menstrual cycles. 

uterine fibroid vs polyp

What are Uterine Fibroids?

Uterine fibroids, also known as leiomyomas or myomas, are benign growths that commonly emerge during a woman’s reproductive years. Contrary to some concerns, uterine fibroids do not pose a heightened risk of uterine cancer and rarely progress into malignancy. Despite their prevalence, with up to three in four women affected, many remain oblivious to their presence as they frequently do not manifest any symptoms. 

Uterine Fibroid vs Polyp 

Basis 

Uterine Fibroid 

Uterine Polyp 

Causes 

  • More prevalent in women as they age. 
  • Women who have given birth or initiated oral contraceptive use early in life. 
  • Fibroids rely on estrogen hormone for growth, so they typically diminish post-menopause when estrogen levels decline, and they are rare in pre-pubertal girls. 
  • Higher Body mass index (BMI). 
  • Dietary factors like high consumption of red meat, vitamin D deficiency, and excessive alcohol intake. 
  • Smoking 
  • Some studies suggest a familial predisposition, hinting at a potential genetic influence on fibroid occurrence. 
  • Endometrial polyps result from excessive glandular growth within the uterine cavity, often accompanied by visible blood vessels. 
  • Prevalent among women in both reproductive and postmenopausal stages. 
  • The precise cause of endometrial polyps remains unclear, but factors such as breast cancer medications, estrogen and progesterone hormones, obesity, menopausal hormone therapy, and certain genetic syndromes may contribute to their development. 
  • Can develop in women of any age post-puberty, and some individuals may experience recurrent or multiple occurrences. 

Symptoms 

When it comes to the difference between uterine polyp and fibroid, the following symptoms are often associated with uterine fibroids: 

  • Alterations in menstrual patterns 
  • Experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding 
  • Prolonged periods lasting more than a week 
  • Occasional spotting between menstrual cycles 
  • Sensation of pelvic pressure 
  • Pressure exerted on the bladder leading to frequent urination or challenges in emptying the bladder 
  • Rectal pressure making bowel movements difficult 
  • Discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse 
  • Potential fertility challenges 
  • Anemia due to excessive blood loss during menstruation, resulting in fatigue 
  • Experiencing back and leg discomfort 

Some of the common symptoms of polyps are as follows: 

  • Changes in menstrual patterns 
  • Irregular menstruation 
  • Inter-menstrual bleeding 
  • Excessive menstrual bleeding 
  • Vaginal bleeding following menopause 
  • Challenges with fertility 

Types 

  • Subserosal (located within the uterine muscle) 
  •  Intramural (confined entirely within the uterine muscle layer) 
  • Submucosal (partially or entirely situated within the uterine cavity) 
  • Cervical (originating from the cervix or lower segment of the uterus) 
  • Broad ligament (involving the lateral uterine tissues) 
  • Pedunculated (extending outside the uterus) 

Pedunculated Polyps: These growths are connected to the uterine wall via a slender stalk.  

Sessile Polyps: These growths have a wider base and are directly affixed to the uterine lining. 

Size 

Uterine polyps vary in size, ranging from a few millimeters — comparable to a sesame seed — to several centimeters — as large as a golf ball or even larger. 

Endometrial polyps vary in size, ranging from a few millimeters to 2-3 centimeters or even larger. 

Progression 

In most cases, polyps typically remain relatively small, often measuring just a few millimeters in diameter. While they may shrink and diminish independently over time, they rarely grow significantly larger 

In contrast, fibroids exhibit a wide spectrum of sizes, with some growing to substantial dimensions and exerting pressure on the uterus. Unlike polyps, fibroids do not typically regress, but they can contract in size. 

Detection and Diagnosis 

Since the symptoms of uterine fibroid and polyp often overlap, our physician will probably need to conduct several tests to determine whether you have fibroids or polyps. 

These tests may comprise: 

  • Transvaginal ultrasound: A diagnostic procedure utilized to observe the uterine cavity through imaging. 
  • Hysteroscopy: A method in which a thin tube containing a camera is inserted into the uterus by the doctor. 
  • Endometrial tissue biopsy: Involves the extraction of a small sample from the polyp, which is then examined under a microscope in a laboratory for evaluation. 
  • Other imaging assessments: These may involve an MRI or CT scan. 

Treatment 

Observation: Managing asymptomatic polyps may not be necessary as they might resolve spontaneously, particularly if there’s no risk of uterine cancer development. 

Medication: The administration of medications like progestins and gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists can mitigate symptoms associated with polyps. However, symptoms may return upon cessation of the medication. 

Surgical Intervention such as Hysteroscopy: Your physician may recommend the surgical removal of polyps, typically through hysteroscopy. A pathological examination of the excised polyps is conducted to ascertain their cancerous nature, as approximately 5% of uterine polyps are malignant. Recurrence of uterine polyps is possible, necessitating further treatment. 

Hormone Therapies to: 

  • Reduce the size of your fibroids 
  • Address your symptoms 

Surgical Interventions to diminish or eliminate your fibroids. 

These may involve: 

High-intensity focused ultrasound therapy, utilizing ultrasound waves to reduce fibroid size. 

Surgical excision of fibroids, known as a myomectomy, can be conducted via hysteroscopy or laparoscopy. 

Hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) — typically recommended for individuals who have finished childbearing or opt not to have children. 

UFE (Uterine Fibroid Embolization): Opt for Non-Surgical and Advanced polyp and fibroid treatment with fibroid specialist Dr. Sandeep Burathoki

Dr. Sandeep Burathoki’s exclusive UFE treatment is a cutting-edge procedure tailored for women prioritizing fertility preservation. This advanced method entails the insertion of a catheter through the leg arteries, directing it to the uterine artery for embolization. It aims to alleviate fibroid symptoms, diminish uterine size, and safeguard fertility. Conducted by Dr. Sandeep Burathoki, a specialized interventional radiologist, this procedure ensures meticulous attention and safety within a state-of-the-art clinical setting. 

Following UFE, the majority of women maintain regular menstrual cycles and, under proper guidance and supervision, may even achieve successful pregnancies. 

Want to learn more about uterine polyp vs fibroid differences? Schedule an appointment with our Radiologist and Fibroid expert, Dr. Sandeep Burathoki. 

Consult with Dr. Sandeep