Stomach polyps — also called gastric polyps — are masses of cells that form on the lining inside your stomach. These polyps are rare and usually don't cause any signs or symptoms. Stomach 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. Depending on the type of stomach polyp you have, treatment might involve removing the polyp or monitoring it for changes.

Stomach polyps usually don't cause signs or symptoms.

But as a stomach polyp enlarges, open sores (ulcers) can develop on its surface. Rarely, the polyp can block the opening between your stomach and your small intestine.

Signs and symptoms of stomach polyps include:

  • Pain or tenderness when you press your abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Blood in your stool
  • Anemia

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you have persistent blood in your stool or other signs or symptoms of stomach polyps.

Stomach polyps form in response to damage to your stomach lining. The most common causes of stomach polyps are:

  • Chronic stomach inflammation. Also known as gastritis, this condition can cause the formation of hyperplastic polyps and adenomas. Hyperplastic polyps are unlikely to become cancerous, although those larger than about 2/5 inch (1 centimeter) carry a greater risk. Adenomas are the least common type of stomach polyp but the type most likely to become cancerous. For that reason, they are generally removed.
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis. This rare, inherited syndrome causes certain cells on the stomach's inner lining to a specific type of polyps called fundic gland polyps. When associated with this syndrome, fundic gland polyps are removed because they can become cancerous. Familial adenomatous polyposis can also cause adenomas.
  • Regular use of certain stomach medications. Fundic gland polyps are common among people who regularly take proton pump inhibitors to reduce stomach acid. These polyps are generally small and aren't a cause for concern. Fundic gland polyps with a diameter larger than about 2/5 inch (1 centimeter) carry a small risk of cancer, so your doctor might recommend discontinuing proton pump inhibitors or removing the polyp or both.

Factors that increase your chances of developing stomach polyps include:

  • Age. Stomach polyps are more common among people in midadulthood to late adulthood.
  • 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.

You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in the digestive system (gastroenterologist).

What you can do

  • Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions, such as fasting before your appointment.
  • Write down your symptoms, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason why you scheduled the appointment.
  • Make a list of all your medications, vitamins and supplements.
  • Write down your key medical information, including other conditions.
  • Write down key personal information, including any recent changes or stressors in your life.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.
  • Ask a relative or friend to accompany you, to help you remember what the doctor says.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • What tests do I need? Is there any special preparation for them?
  • What kinds of treatments do I need?
  • What follow-up care will I need?
  • I have other health problems. How can I best manage these conditions together?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may leave time to go over points you want to spend more time on. You may be asked:

  • What are your symptoms, and when did they begin?
  • How severe are your symptoms? Are they occasional or continuous?
  • Does anything improve or worsen your symptoms?
  • Do you have a family history of colon cancer, polyps or familial adenomatous polyposis?
  • Do you take medications to reduce stomach acid?

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

Treatment depends on the type of stomach polyps you have:

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

Your doctor will likely recommend follow-up endoscopy to check for recurring polyps.

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.

Oct. 17, 2015