When the cells of your stomach lining bunch up and grow in an unusual mass, it’s known as a stomach polyp. Most polyps in the gastric lining are benign and go without detection for years or even decades. Some become cancerous over time and must be removed before it spreads to the rest of the body. Most polyps are monitored and left in place in case they do nothing. Polyps can form in reaction to long-term irritation, cysts developing in the gastric glands, and a genetic risk passed down through your family.
Gastric polyps don’t usually cause symptoms. When they do create noticeable problems for patients, the signs may be:
Even cancerous polyps can go undetected. Most growths in the stomach lining are only discovered during imaging tests or other exams for unrelated problems.
Stomach polyps form as a result of damage to the lining of the stomach. There are three conditions usually responsible for this damage. The first is gastritis, which causes chronic inflammation of the stomach lining and hyperplastic polyps and adenomas as a result. Gastritis is most commonly caused by a bacterial stomach infection.
The second is familial adenomatous polyposis, which is a rare, hereditary syndrome which causes certain cells on the lining of the stomach to develop into fundic gland polyps.
The third cause of stomach polyps is medication. Proton pump inhibitors, which are prescribed to reduce stomach acid to treat a range of conditions, such as chronic acid reflux and peptic ulcers, are particularly well-known for causing fundic gland polyps.
Although not a cause of stomach polyps, age can play a role in the development of the condition. People tend to develop polyps in mid-adulthood or later, perhaps as a result of many years of irritation and damage to the stomach due to whatever the root cause of the condition might be.
The polyp is biopsied and tested after discovery to determine whether it’s benign or cancerous. If it’s benign, no treatment is necessary unless it’s causing unpleasant side effects. Surgery is the most common treatment because there are no medications known to shrink polyps.
Polyps caused by long-term irritation due to a secondary condition, such as bacterial gastritis, are only removed after the initial inflammation is treated. New polyps will grow if there’s an infection or injury causing the stomach lining to react.
There is no definitive way to prevent stomach polyps, but successful management of the conditions described above may help to keep them at bay or reduce the amount and size of the polyps that do develop.
Gastritis should be treated rapidly, often with the use of antibiotics and sometimes with antacids to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach and therefore reduce inflammation.
People with conditions which are managed with the use of proton pump inhibitors may try to manage without the medication to reduce their risk of polyps. However, this should only be done with the advice of a doctor, as the benefits of the proton pump inhibitor may far outweigh the risk of polyps. If possible, doctors will advise discontinuing proton pump inhibitors if a polyp is discovered to prevent more from occurring.