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What Is a Stomach Polyp?

A diagram of the stomach and duodenum.
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  • Written By: Cindy Quarters
  • Edited By: S. Pike
  • Last Modified Date: 18 April 2014
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Unlike polyps often found in the colon, stomach polyps are relatively rare, according to the Mayo Clinic. A stomach polyp is composed of a mass of cells and grows on the lining of the stomach. It often causes no symptoms and may be discovered only when a examination is being done for another purpose.

Despite the fact that a stomach polyp usually has no symptoms, polyps that grow near one of the stomach’s openings or that get very large will cause some generalized stomach symptoms. A polyp that blocks the opening to the small intestine causes digestive upset, nausea, and possibly vomiting. Large polyps can lead to abdominal tenderness, either constant or evident when the abdomen is pressed. Sometimes polyps may develop surface ulcers, causing bleeding in addition to some or all of the other symptoms already mentioned.

Treating a stomach polyp is often not necessary, as a polyp generally does not cause any problems and will not often become cancerous, though this depends on the particular type of polyp. The doctor will evaluate the stomach polyp to see if it is likely to create trouble in the future. If it is one of the types that may lead to difficulties, the doctor will most likely recommend its removal.

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There are three main types of stomach polyps. Fundic gland polyps grow from the glandular cells of the stomach lining. These can occur in anybody, but they are more common in people with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), an inherited predisposition to colon cancer. Fundic gland polyps are at high risk of turning into stomach cancer in people with FAP.

Adenomas also form from the glandular tissue in the stomach lining, but in a different fashion than fundic gland polyps. When adenomas begin to grow, they develop an error in their deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that causes them to be at very high risk for becoming cancerous. They are almost always associated with either chronic gastritis or FAP.

Hyperplastic polyps form as a reaction to chronic inflammation in the stomach lining, as is found in people with gastritis. These polyps do not usually become cancerous. The exception is that large polyps, those over 3/4 of an inch (1.9 cm) across, are more likely to turn into stomach cancer and accordingly pose more of a risk.

If a doctor decides that a stomach polyp should be removed, the removal can often be accomplished with an endoscope, a tube that is inserted into the stomach through the mouth. Instruments can be passed through this tube and stomach polyps can be snipped from the lining. Drugs to control infections and inflammation may be used to prevent the growth and recurrence of polyps in the future.

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