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updated October 17, 2012

Stomach polyps

Filed under: Digestive Health
Stomach polyps are masses of cells that form on the inside lining of your stomach. Stomach polyps, also called gastric polyps, are rare.

Stomach polyps usually don't cause any signs or symptoms. The polyps are most often discovered when your doctor is examining you for some other reason.

Most stomach polyps don't become cancerous, but certain types can increase your risk of stomach cancer in the future. For this reason, some stomach polyps are removed and others are not treated.

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Stomach polyps usually don't cause signs or symptoms. But as a stomach polyp enlarges, open sores (ulcers) may develop on its surface. In rare occurrences, the polyp blocks the opening between your stomach and your small intestine.

If you have stomach polyps, you may experience:

  • Pain or tenderness when you press your stomach area (abdomen)
  • Bleeding
  • Anemia

When to see a doctor
If you have any persistent signs or symptoms that worry you, make an appointment with your doctor.

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Stomach polyps form in response to swelling (inflammation) or other damage to the lining of the stomach. The most common types of stomach polyps are:

  • Hyperplastic polyps, which form as a reaction to chronic inflammation in the cells that line the inside of the stomach. Hyperplastic polyps are most common in people with stomach inflammation (gastritis). This association may be related to Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a type of bacteria that infects the inner lining of the stomach. Most hyperplastic polyps are unlikely to become stomach cancer. But hyperplastic polyps larger than about 3/4 inch (2 centimeters) in diameter have a greater risk of becoming cancerous.
  • Fundic gland polyps, which form from the glandular cells on the inside lining of the stomach. Fundic gland polyps which occur in people with a rare, inherited syndrome called familial adenomatous polyposis are removed because those polyps can become cancerous.

    Fundic gland polyps are common among people who regularly take certain medications to reduce stomach acid (proton pump inhibitors). Fundic gland polyps aren't a cause for concern for these people unless they're larger than 2/5 inch (1 centimeter) in diameter. The cancer risk in these large polyps is very small, but some doctors recommend discontinuing proton pump inhibitors or removing the polyp or both.

  • Adenomas, which also form from the glandular cells on the inside lining of the stomach. Adenomas are the least common type of stomach polyp, but the most likely type to become stomach cancer. Adenomas are associated with stomach inflammation and familial adenomatous polyposis.

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Factors that increase your chances of developing stomach polyps include:

  • Age. Stomach polyps are more common among people age 50 and older.
  • Bacterial stomach infection. Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria are a common cause of the gastritis that contributes to hyperplastic polyps and adenomas.
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis. This rare, inherited syndrome increases the risk of colon cancer and other conditions, including stomach polyps.
  • Certain medications. Long-term use of proton pump inhibitors, which are medications used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease, has been linked to fundic gland polyps.

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Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

  • Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions, such as not eating after midnight on the night before your appointment.
  • Write down your symptoms, including when they started and how they may have changed or worsened over time.
  • Write down key personal information.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins and supplements that you're taking.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Questions to ask your doctor
Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What is the most likely cause of my condition?
  • What kinds of tests do I need?
  • If I need surgery, what will my recovery be like?
  • How will my diet and lifestyle change after I have surgery?
  • What follow-up care will I need?

Don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you questions about your symptoms, such as:
  • When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to worsen your symptoms?
  • Do you have a personal or family history of colon cancer, polyps or familial adenomatous polyposis?
  • Do you take medications to reduce stomach acid?

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Tests and procedures used to diagnose stomach polyps include:

  • Endoscopy, to view the inside of your stomach
  • Tissue sample (biopsy), which can be removed during endoscopy and analyzed in the laboratory

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Treatment depends on the type of stomach polyps you have:

  • Small polyps that aren't adenomas may not require treatment. These polyps typically don't cause signs and symptoms and only rarely become cancerous. Your doctor may recommend periodic endoscopy to monitor your stomach polyps. Polyps that grow or that cause signs and symptoms can be removed.
  • Large stomach polyps may need to be removed. Most stomach polyps can be removed during endoscopy.
  • Adenomas are usually removed during endoscopy.
  • Polyps associated with familial adenomatous polyposis are removed because they can become cancerous.

Treating H. pylori infection
If you have gastritis caused by H. pylori bacteria in your stomach, your doctor will likely recommend treatment with antibiotics. Treating an H. pylori infection may make hyperplastic polyps disappear, and may also stop polyps from recurring. You may need to take antibiotics for several weeks to kill the H. pylori.

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