What Is A Stomach Polyp And What Causes It?

Most stomach polyps are benign and don't require too much attention; however, some may lead to the development of gastric cancer.

Stomach polyps don't normally attract too much attention. Most stomach polyps are benign masses that grow abnormally out of the lining of the stomach and project above the mucosal. A small minority of all gastric polyps go on to become cancers. In fact, stomach polyps often go undetected for long periods of time. Some may shrug them off as symptoms of an "upset stomach".

Stomach polyps are classified according to its cancer causing abilities. Non-neoplastic polyps are benign. They are formed when the mature mucosa forms abnormally or when an inflammatory event takes place. Ninety percent of stomach polyps found are non-neoplastic. The other ten percent are neoplastic, which may become full-fledged carcinomas. Adenomatous polyps are neoplastic. There are three types of non-neoplastic polyps: hyperplastic, inflammatory, and fundic polyps.

Hyperplastic polyps are one example of a benign stomach polyp. They occur singly in the antrum, or in multiples at the more distal regions of the stomach. Hyperplastic polyps are small, often measuring less than two centimeters in diameter. They are either sessile (without a stalk) or pedunculated (with a stalk). Research studies have found that the presence of these types of polyps may be associated with chronic gastritis that is caused by Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium residing in the stomach. Gastritis is an inflammation of the mucosal lining in the stomach.

The fundic gland polyp is another type of non-neoplastic polyp. This type of polyp is usually located in the fundus, or upper portion of the stomach, and measures less than one centimeter in diameter. Fundic polyps are diagnosed in patients who have been treated with proton inhibitor pumps, or with individuals who have a family history of Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP).

The third non-neoplastic polyp is the inflammatory polyp. Inflammatory polyps occur where the stomach and small intestines are connected, and may be found in the area because of a previous surgical procedure. Research has tied the growth of inflammatory polyps with the presence of Helicobacter pylori.

The most dangerous of the stomach polyps is the adenomatous polyp. Five to ten percent of all gastric polyps will be adenomatous. These types are neoplastic and are precursors to cancer. They proliferate and form dysplastic glands in the mucosa. These polyps can either be sessile or pedunculated. Adenomas usually appear in the antrum and grow to sizes ranging three to four centimeters in diameter. The prevalence of adenomas increases with age, particularly when individuals reach their sixties or seventies. Forty percent of the adenomas diagnosed will already show signs of carcinoma. The areas that are covered by this forty percent will develop into cancers thirty percent of the time. The formation of these polyps usually starts with chronic gastritis. Hyperplastic polyps can become adenomatomous.

Polyps are normally detected incidentally. Dyspepsia, pain, obstruction of the pyloric canal, or blood loss are symptoms associated with some gastric polyps. The polyps will be discovered only when individuals finally receive the endoscopies or x-ray examinations. The polyps are all removed, and some may be further examined for signs of dysplasia, or abnormal tissue development. About 20% of the removed polyps examined will show dysplasia. If pathologists discover any adenomatous polyps, follow-up endoscopies may be necessary to monitor the presence of cancerous growths.

Although stomach polyps are relatively benign and cause little discomfort in the majority of cases, individuals who experience bleeding, nausea, or burning should seek medical attention. Individuals should seek regular examinations if any adenomas are found as these may predispose an individual to cancer if not resolved. If the precursors are detected and removed before cancer actually forms, individuals have a good chance of living a long and happy life.

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