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What's the Difference Between a Polyp and a Fibroid?

What's the Difference Between a Polyp and a Fibroid?

Many women have harmless growths that develop within the lining of the uterine wall. Most of the time, these growths cause no noticeable symptoms. In fact, most women are completely unaware of it when these growths develop.

In some cases, however, non-cancerous growths such as uterine polyps and uterine fibroids grow large, or many develop at once, and when this happens, issues like abnormally heavy periods occur. 

Here at Ideal Gynecology in Atlanta, Georgia, OB/GYN Lillian Schapiro, MD, FACOG, provides exceptional obstetric and gynecological care. Along with our experienced women’s health practitioners, our team is dedicated to helping women stay well. Keep reading to learn more about how we evaluate and treat uterine fibroids and polyps. 

Uterine fibroids vs polyps

Both uterine fibroids and uterine polyps are non-cancerous growths. However, they are made up of different types of tissue. Fibroids are made of smooth muscle, while polyps are made of the thin tissue that lines the uterus (endometrial tissue). Polyps are more common once you reach your 40s and 50s, while fibroids tend to occur in women of all ages. 

Evaluating abnormal uterine growths

Typically found in the uterine walls, fibroids and polyps rarely cause serious health problems. Depending on their size and number, they can cause abnormally heavy blood flow, severe cramping, pelvic pressure, and bladder issues.

Fibroids and polyps can also interfere with conception and pregnancy depending on their location, size, and rate of growth. 

We utilize a variety of methods to diagnose these growths and distinguish one type from another. In some cases, your gynecologist may be able to feel these growths during a pelvic examination, but in most cases, doctors use imaging to make an accurate diagnosis. We can evaluate you conveniently in-office, without the need to refer you to an imaging center. 

Pelvic ultrasound

To evaluate you for issues like fibroids, our team offers in-office transvaginal ultrasound, which is used to examine the uterine lining. This is typically the most effective way to detect a fibroid. Your provider inserts a thin probe called a transducer into the vagina to perform the ultrasound. 

Ultrasound hysterosonogram 

An ultrasound with hysterosonogram is used when we need to better evaluate the uterine lining. This involves filling the uterus with salt water for better visualization. The saline expands the uterus and makes it easier to see and measure any fibroids in the area. 

Hysteroscopy

Hysteroscopy is a minor surgical procedure that involves inserting a lighted telescopic instrument called a hysteroscope and inspecting the uterine cavity wall for any abnormalities. If a fibroid is discovered, it may be removed during the same procedure.

MRI


MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. This procedure employs a strong magnetic field, radio frequency pulses, and a computer to generate highly detailed images of soft tissue (as well as virtually all other body structures). 

In the case of fibroids, MRI can help to provide a more precise visualization of multiple growths of varying sizes so that they can all be removed. Because of its specificity, the MRI can aid in distinguishing fibroids from other uterine abnormalities.

Treating fibroids and polyps 

Growths that are causing symptoms can be removed surgically in a procedure known as myomectomy, while the uterus and ovaries are preserved to allow for conception. Myomectomy can be performed in a variety of ways, depending on the location, size, and number of growths.

Hysteroscope-assisted myomectomy

If the fibroid is mostly in the uterine cavity, the best approach is usually a hysteroscope, which is a thin lighted telescope inserted through the vagina and into the uterus. 

The hysteroscope is outfitted with surgical instruments that allow the doctor to view and remove the growths. Because there are no incisions, it is usually performed as a day surgery with no overnight hospital stays, and recovery is quick - usually less than a week.

Uterine artery embolization

Because the long-term effects of this relatively new procedure are still being studied, it is not yet recommended for women who want to preserve their fertility. By injecting small particles (beads) into the arteries that supply the fibroids, the embolization procedure blocks fibroid blood supply. The physician guides a catheter through the leg arteries and into the uterine artery for embolization.

If you’re dealing with heavy periods, or other symptoms, it’s wise to come in for an evaluation. To get started, call or book online to schedule a visit with Dr. Schapiro today. 

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