Types of polyps and what to do about them

Polyps are clumps of cells that grow inside your body. While most polyps aren’t dangerous, some can develop into cancer.

There are two common types of polyp, pedunculated and sessile. Pedunculated polyps hang from a small stalk, while sessile polyps grow from the tissue around it and are flat.

Stomach polyps
Usually harmless and without symptoms, stomach polyps are often diagnosed when your doctor is looking for something else. While they are usually not cancerous, having these polyps can make you more likely to develop cancer later in life.

If your doctor does identify a type of stomach polyp called an adenoma, which can become cancerous, they will likely perform a biopsy and prescribe antibiotics should H. pylori bacteria be found. Larger polyps may need to be removed.

Colon polyps
Nearly half of us will develop colon polyps over our lifetimes. Adenomatous polyps are more common, and while they are usually noncancerous, some larger ones can develop into cancer over a matter of years. Hyperplastic polyps don’t become cancerous and grow around the end of the colon.

To locate and identify colon polyps, your doctor will perform a colonoscopy. If polyps are discovered, your doctor will remove them during the procedure and have a sample sent off for a biopsy to determine if they are dangerous. Most people will have their first colonoscopy around the age of 50.

Vocal cord polyps
Polyps on the vocal cords will usually only grow on one side. They are usually harmless but can cause your voice to sound deeper and feel hoarse, making it harder to speak normally. These symptoms are also associated with other conditions including allergies, hormonal imbalance and acid reflux, so your doctor may check for these before inspecting your vocal cords. They will most likely go away by themselves. 

Nasal polyps
These grow inside your nasal passages and sinuses and are usually noncancerous. They can cause headaches, runny noses, snoring, reduced sense of taste and smell and may even make it hard to breathe or cause infections if they grow larger.

While these types of polyps are usually harmless, they may be removed to reduce symptoms. Your doctor may remove them using an endoscope during the examination, or you may require surgery.

Aural polyps
These grow in clusters in your ear canal or middle ear, and they can grow organically or as a result of an infection. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to see if the polyps are associated with an infection. If they don’t go away naturally you may need to have them removed surgically.

Endometrial polyps
These polyps are sometimes pedunculated and sometimes sessile and grow on the inside of the uterus. Also known as uterine polyps, they are usually noncancerous. They can, however, make it difficult to get pregnant and affect your monthly period, causing spotting and changes to the heaviness and frequency of periods.

While these polyps are usually harmless aside from their side-effects, if they develop after the age of 50 it may be best to remove them. While only surgery can remove polyps, some medicines can help to manage their symptoms.

Have you or someone you know ever had polyps? What was the discovery and treatment process like?

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Written by Liv Gardiner


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