A polyp is a tissue growth that protrudes from a bodily surface, usually a mucous membrane.
It is an abnormal tissue growth that resembles little, flat bumps, or mushroom-like stalks.
The majority of polyps are tiny, measuring less than half an inch in diameter.
Polyps are treated differently depending on their size, location, and whether they’re benign or cancerous.
They can develop in the following areas inside the body:
- Colon (colorectal)
- Stomach (gastric)
- Cervix (cervical)
- Uterus (endometrial)
- Ear canal (aural)
- Nose (nasal)
- Vocal cord (throat)
Types of Polyps
There are two common types of polyps shapes: pedunculated (suspended from a stalk) and sessile (flat and emerges from the surrounding tissue).
Polyps are not all the same.
The five most prevalent forms of colon and rectal polyps are as follows:
Adenomatous (tubular adenoma)
Adenomatous is the most common type of colon polyps. They are typically tiny, measuring less than 1/2 inch in diameter. They grow in a tube shape, as the name tubular adenoma suggests.
When this sort of polyp is discovered, it is examined for signs of cancer. Although only a tiny fraction of adenomatous polyps progress to malignancy, practically all malignant polyps begin as adenomatous polyps.
Fortunately, the transformation of these polyps into colon cancer takes a long time so they can be detected and removed before that happens with frequent screening.
Non-neoplastic intraluminal projections of mucosa made up of stromal and epithelial components as well as inflammatory cells are known as inflammatory polyps.
People with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are more likely to develop these.
These polyps are also known as pseudopolyps because they are not actual polyps but rather form as a result of chronic colon inflammation.
Serrated polyps might develop malignant depending on their size and location in the colon. Precancerous polyps are larger serrated polyps that are often flat (sessile), difficult to identify, and found in the upper colon.
Under the microscope, the polyps are distinguished by their saw-toothed appearance. Only by removing polyps and analyzing them under a microscope can the types of polyps be identified.
Hyperplastic polyp, or small, serrated polyp in the lower intestine that forms at the colon’s end, is rarely cancerous. It is the growth of additional cells that stretches from your body’s tissues.
Your stomach may also develop hyperplastic polyps. In fact, stomach polyps of this sort are the most prevalent.
Small stomach polyps are usually unnoticeable and do not produce any symptoms but as you become older, your chances of developing stomach polyps increase.
Villous Adenoma (Tubulovillous Adenoma)
Tubular adenomas are common in small adenomas, but villous adenomas are more common in larger ones.
Villous or tubulovillous adenomas have a high chance of developing into cancer. They are frequently sessile, making removal more difficult.
Smaller villous adenoma polyps can be eliminated with a colonoscopy, while larger polyps may need surgery to be completely removed.
The vast majority of polyps do not progress to malignancy. Certain forms of polyps have a higher risk of developing cancer.
The removal of polyps during a colonoscopy lowers the chance of colon cancer developing in the future.
What are the Causes and Risks of Polyps
There is no obvious cause as to why polyps exist and there are times that doctors can’t determine their cause.
But they often develop from the abnormal growth of cells. The causes can also depend on their location.
Some others are as follows:
- Excess estrogen
- Mutation in the genes of colon cells
- Severe stomach inflammation
Anyone can get polys but according to the American Cancer Society, people who have the following factors are at a higher risk:
- Age 50 and older
- Overweight or obesity
- Tobacco and alcohol use
- History of polyps or colon cancer
- Inflammatory bowel disease (i.e., ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
- Type 2 diabetes
Polyps and colon cancer are also linked to some hereditary disorders, such as:
- Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) is diagnosed when a person develops more than 100 adenomatous colon polyps.
- Gardner’s syndrome affects a small number of people. It usually causes benign or noncancerous growths to become cancerous.
- Lynch syndrome, commonly known as hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), is the most frequent cause of hereditary colorectal (colon and rectum) cancer.
- MUTYH-associated polyposis (MAP) is a rare disorder in which a person’s colon and rectum are covered in adenomatous polyps (abnormal tissue growths).
- Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS) increases the chance of hamartomatous polyps in the digestive tract, as well as cancers of the breast, colon, and rectum, pancreas, stomach, testicles, ovaries, lung, and cervix.
- The number and size of serrated polyps in the colon and rectum are used to identify serrated polyposis syndrome (SPS).
What are the Symptoms of Polyps?
The majority of colon polyps do not cause any symptoms. You won’t know you have one unless you take a test to find out. If you do have signs, they may include the following:
- Rectal bleeding – blood in your feces, in the toilet bowl, or on the toilet paper as you wipe could be symptoms of internal bleeding in your colon.
- Stool color change – blood can appear in your stool as red streaks or as a black color.
- Bowel habits change – constipation or diarrhea that lasts more than a week could be a sign of a bigger polyp or cancer in the colon.
- Pain – a big colon polyp can cause crampy stomach pain by partially obstructing your bowel.
- Anemia (lack of iron) – polyp-related bleeding might happen gradually over time, with no obvious blood in your stool, also causing fatigue and shortness of breath.
Other symptoms in the following locations of polyps are as follows:
- Colon – blood in the stool, stomach ache, constipation, and diarrhea
- Stomach – nausea, discomfort, soreness, vomiting, and bleeding
- Cervix – usually no symptoms, however, they can include heavy bleeding during
menstruation or sex, as well as an unusual discharge
- Uterus – infertility, irregular monthly flow, and vaginal bleeding
- Bladder – urinary blood, painful urination, and frequent urination
- Ear canal – loss of hearing and dripping of blood
- Nose – headache, nose pain, and loss of smell that are comparable to those of a normal cold
- Vocal cord – a harsh, breathy voice that develops over a period of days to weeks
Various approaches are utilized to get a sample depending on where the polyp or polyps are located. These are some of them:
- Pap smear for cervix
- Esophagogastroduodenoscopy or endoscopy for small bowel and stomach
- Colonoscopy for big bowel
- Biopsy of places that are easy to reach so that a sample may be collected and studied under a microscope
Other screening tests you can take are the following:
- CT colonography (also known as virtual colonoscopy) – employs specialized x-ray equipment to look for cancer and polyps in the large intestine.
A tiny tube is introduced a short distance into the rectum during the exam to allow for gas expansion while CT images of the colon and rectum are captured.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy – endoscopic treatment that allows your doctor to inspect your rectum and lower colon.
A sigmoidoscope is a specialized endoscope that your doctor uses to visualize the area. It is a thin, flexible illuminated tube with a camera at the tip.
- Stool-based tests – look for aberrant DNA from cancer or polyp cells, as well as occult (hidden) blood.
DNA mutations (changes) in particular genes are common in colorectal cancer and polyp cells.
A pathologist (a doctor who specializes in evaluating tissue samples) will analyze your polyp tissue under a microscope to see if it’s malignant and any polyps discovered during your colonoscopy will almost certainly be removed by your gastroenterologist.
Prevention is better than cure so always have regular screenings and try to adopt a new lifestyle and healthy habits.
If you’re in a high-risk situation, think about your options and consult an expert now.
Learn More from the Experts
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The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.