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Dr QM Leong
Dr QM Leong

Gastric/Stomach Polyps: Causes, Treatment, Prevention

Gastric or stomach polyps are growths that emerge on the stomach lining. While most stomach polyps are benign, understanding them is crucial because certain types can become cancerous. This article delves into the symptoms of stomach/gastric polyps, its types, causes, treatments, and preventative measures to ensure individuals are well-informed.

 

What Are Gastric/Stomach Polyps?

Gastric polyps, commonly referred to as stomach polyps, form from the mucous layer of the stomach and are usually benign. Polyps may vary in size and can be singular or numerous. While some may never pose a threat, others can, over time, become cancerous, depending on their type.

Understanding the different types of stomach polyps is paramount to effective treatment and monitoring.

Hyperplastic Polyps

Hyperplastic polyps are among the most common types of stomach polyps. They are small and benign and often arise due to inflammation or other non-cancerous stomach conditions. 

Though they rarely become cancerous, larger hyperplastic polyps, particularly those in the lower stomach or the small intestine, have a greater risk of malignancy.

Fundic Gland Polyps

Fundic gland polyps are a type of stomach polyp that grows in the upper part of your stomach. These are typically harmless and do not lead to stomach cancer. 

However, their association with prolonged use of proton pump inhibitors, a common medication for acid reflux, has been observed. This results from the significant and prolonged decrease in stomach acid production induced by these drugs.

Adenomatous Polyps

Adenomatous polyps are less common than hyperplastic polyps but hold a significant risk. These polyps have the potential to become cancerous if left unchecked. 

Their presence can sometimes be linked to inherited syndromes such as familial adenomatous polyposis. Given their potential risk, they often require removal and close monitoring to ensure they don’t return or develop into malignancy.

Hamartomatous Polyps 

Hamartomatous polyps are benign overgrowths formed from a mix of tissues normally found at their location. They are often associated with inherited syndromes like Peutz-Jeghers syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis in the stomach. They originate from the mucus-producing cells and may present a risk for cancer, especially if related to the mentioned inherited syndromes.

Inflammatory Fibroid Polyps 

Inflammatory fibroid polyps are benign growths in any part of the gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach. Comprising connective tissues, these polyps are not typically inherited and are not known to become cancerous. They often manifest as a response to inflammation and can cause symptoms like pain or bleeding.

 

Symptoms Of Stomach Polyps

Stomach polyps are growths in the stomach. Most of the time, they don’t cause any problems and people don’t even know they have them. But sometimes, they can cause certain symptoms that might be bothersome

Abdominal Pain or Discomfort: A frequent symptom of stomach polyps is a vague pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen. It can range from mild to intense, possibly intensifying after meals.

Bleeding: Bleeding from polyps can be subtle, leading to iron-deficiency anaemia or evident, presenting as blood in the stool or black, tarry stools. Gastric bleeding might also result in vomiting blood in some cases.

Nausea and Vomiting: If a polyp grows large enough or becomes inflamed, it can cause nausea or even episodes of vomiting.

Feeling of Fullness: Larger polyps might give a sensation of fullness in the upper stomach, especially after eating.

 

Causes And Risk Factors For Developing Gastric Polyps

Gastric polyps are small growths in the stomach, and certain factors can increase the chances of someone developing them. These include stomach inflammation, certain medicines, inherited conditions, and getting older. In this discussion, we’ll take a closer look at these risk factors and their role in the formation of gastric polyps.

Knowing these risk factors can aid in detection and early prevention.

Genetics And Family History

One of the significant risk factors for certain types of stomach polyps is a family history. For instance, those with an inherited syndrome called familial adenomatous polyposis may develop adenomas in the stomach, which have the potential to become cancerous. 

Understanding one’s family medical history is crucial, as it can give insights into the potential risk of developing such polyps.

Long-Lasting Stomach Inflammation (Gastritis)

Chronic inflammation of the stomach lining, commonly known as gastritis, can lead to the formation of hyperplastic polyps. These polyps are often benign, but there’s a slight chance they can become cancerous, especially if they are large or if they exhibit certain cellular changes.

Stomach Medications

Prolonged use of certain stomach medications, especially Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), has been linked to an increased risk of developing fundic gland polyps. 

This is due to the substantial and sustained reduction in stomach acid production that these medications cause. This reduction in acid leads to an increase in the production of gastrin, a hormone that stimulates acid secretion.

Over time, the chronically elevated gastrin levels can stimulate the growth of cells in the stomach lining, particularly in the fundic gland region. However, these are common types of stomach polyps that are typically benign and don’t carry a risk of becoming cancerous. 

Helicobacter Pylori

Helicobacter pylori, or H pylori, is a bacterial stomach infection, which is a leading cause of stomach/peptic ulcers and long-term inflammation. It can infect the stomach lining, produce enzymes and toxins that can weaken the stomach’s protective mucous lining, thus making it more susceptible to damage from stomach acid. 

This combination of inflammation and acid is the perfect recipe to the development of peptic ulcers; open sores on the inner lining of the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine. 

How Are Stomach Polyps Diagnosed?

Navigating gastric health demands precise diagnostic measures. Explore advanced tools and methodologies used to identify and assess stomach polyps.

Endoscopy: This is the primary tool to diagnose stomach polyps. Through this procedure, a doctor can not only view the polyps but also take biopsy samples to determine the type of stomach polyp and assess any risk of malignancy.

X-rays with Barium Contrast: Here, the patient swallows a barium solution, which coats the lining of the digestive tract, making polyps and other abnormalities easier to spot in X-rays.

Blood Tests: Comprehensive blood tests can identify signs of anaemia, check liver and kidney functions, and reveal any nutritional deficiencies that might result from bleeding or malabsorption caused by polyps. Genetic tests could be prescribed if there’s suspicion of familial adenomatous polyposis or another inherited syndrome.

Treatment Options For Stomach Polyps

Dealing with stomach polyps means knowing the best treatments. Here, we’ll explore the common ways doctors handle these growths.

Observation and Regular Check-ups: Often, doctors might opt for a “watch and wait” strategy, especially for hyperplastic gastric polyps, which are typically benign. Regular endoscopic check-ups can monitor the polyps’ size, number, and nature.

Endoscopic Removal: This is the standard procedure for most polyps deemed risky or too large. Endoscopic Mucosal Resection or Endoscopic Submucosal Dissection might be performed, which are advanced procedures allowing to remove larger or flat polyps. 

While EMR is typically quicker and has a lower risk of complications, it is best suited for smaller, less complex lesions. 

ESD, on the other hand, is more time-consuming and has a higher risk of complications but allows for the removal of larger, more complex lesions that have invaded the submucosa in one piece. 

Surgical Interventions: Surgery becomes a consideration when stomach polyps occur that are too extensive for endoscopic removal or if multiple polyps are present. In this case, other surgical options such as a Gastrectomy; the partial or total removal of the stomach, or a 

Medication Adjustments: Patients on long-term medication might need a review and possible adjustments. PPIs have been linked with the formation of fundic gland polyps. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) can cause irritation of the stomach lining and may lead to the development of hyperplastic polyps or adenomas. H2 Blockers are associated with the formation of gastric polyps. 

Follow-up and Monitoring: Vigilance is key. Even after treatment, periodic endoscopic evaluations are essential.

 

Prevention Strategies

While gastric polyps can sometimes arise without clear cause, certain preventive measures can reduce the risk:

Dietary Choices: A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fibre can promote gut health and potentially reduce the risk of stomach polyps.

Regular Screenings: Regular endoscopic screenings can detect and treat polyps early for those with an inherited syndrome like familial adenomatous polyposis.

Manage Gastric Acidity: Managing gastric acidity often involves a combination of lifestyle changes, dietary adjustments, and medications. Reducing intake of spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and large meals, especially before bedtime, can help decrease stomach acid production. 

Avoid Smoking: Tobacco usage can increase the prevalence and risk factors of various gastrointestinal conditions, including the development of polyps. Nicotine and other compounds found in tobacco can also interfere with the normal functioning of the stomach lining. 

Excessive smoking can disrupt the balance of stomach acid, creating an environment that is more conducive to the development of polyps. Additionally, smoking has been linked to a higher risk of infection with Helicobacter pylori, a known risk factor for the development of stomach polyps and gastric cancer.

 

Conclusion On Gastric Polyps Symptoms

Gastric polyps, while generally benign, demand attention due to their high risk of cancer. Recognising the types, causes, and treatments can guide timely intervention and management. 

Preventive measures, including a balanced diet and regular medical screenings, especially for those at higher risk, can mitigate the threat they pose.

If you have concerns about your digestive health or believe you might have a stomach polyp, do not hesitate. Schedule a consultation with Dr Leong today

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Gastric Polyps Symptoms

Are Gastric Polyps Contagious? 

No, gastric or stomach polyps are not contagious. They are growths that develop due to various factors, including genetic predisposition and chronic stomach inflammation, but are known to be benign.

Are All Gastric Polyps Potentially Cancerous? 

No, not all gastric polyps have the potential to become cancerous. However, certain types, like adenomatous polyps, carry a higher risk of cancer.

Do Gastric Polyps Affect Appetite?

In some cases, gastric polyps are asymptomatic or do not show symptoms. This means they may not directly affect appetite. However, if the polyps become large, inflamed, or ulcerate, they could potentially cause symptoms like pain, nausea, or bleeding, which might indirectly affect one’s appetite. 

How Often Should I Get Screened If I Have A Family History Of Familial Adenomatous Polyposis? 

Individuals with familial adenomatous polyposis should undergo endoscopic screenings annually or every other year. But consulting with a healthcare provider for personalised guidance is essential.