Stomach polyps are protrusions of the gastric mucosa and are also referred to as benign tumors or tumors. In addition to intestinal polyps, gastric polyps are the most common neoplasms in the mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal tract. In particular, people over the age of 60 are more likely to be affected by gastric polyps.
What are gastric polyps?
According to Phonecations, stomach polyps are benign (non-cancerous) neoplasms of the gastric mucosa that manifest as a protrusion of the mucous membrane into the lumen of the stomach. In over 90 percent of cases, gastric polyps are adenomas that have arisen from adenomatous (gland-forming) tissue and have an increased risk of degeneration (formation of cancer cells).
Initially, gastric polyps usually do not cause any symptoms. Only in the advanced stage and from a size of about 1 cm can symptoms such as a feeling of fullness, loss of appetite and pain in the upper abdomen occur. In some cases, gastric polyps can lead to hematemesis (vomiting blood) or tarry stools ( black stools). Gastric polyps are also differentiated into neoplastic and non-neoplastic types.
While neoplastic gastric polyps arise from newly formed tissue (20 percent of cases) and, like adenomas, have an increased risk of becoming malignant, non-neoplastic polyps form from glandular cysts and often appear as local clusters (multiple gastric polyps).
The underlying causes for the development of gastric polyps have not yet been clarified. It is known that older people are more at risk. It is assumed that eating habits such as a high-fat and low-fiber diet as well as nicotine and alcohol consumption play a role.
Since in many cases a familial accumulation of gastric polyps can be determined, especially in genetic polyposis syndromes such as Gardner syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome or juvenile polyposis, genetic factors are also discussed. In addition, infections with Helicobacter pylori bacteria are considered as contributing factors that can cause gastric ulcer or gastritis (inflammatory disease of the gastric mucosa) as causes of gastric polyps.
For example, as a result of gastritis, there is a regression of the gastric mucosal tissue, which is probably supposed to be compensated for by increased polyp formation. In addition, reduced gastric juice production has been shown to increase the risk of gastric polyps developing.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
In most cases, gastric polyps do not show any symptoms. Small polyps usually go unnoticed. Accordingly, symptoms only appear with larger polyps and the possible side effects. The symptoms of larger polyps, on the other hand, include several complaints.
They are intensified if gastritis also develops, which is more common in people with stomach polyps. The symptoms include pain in the upper abdomen with varying intensity. Perceptible stomach pains also occur, which can range from a slight feeling of pressure to severe stinging. This often leads to a feeling of fullness in the stomach and loss of appetite. Apparently unfounded nausea can occur, and occasionally people become disgusted by eating meat.
If the polyps bleed, people sometimes vomit the blood. However, this is rare. Most stomach polyps don’t damage the stomach as much. Blood vomiting is therefore usually a symptom of a degenerated gastric polyp or other injury in the stomach.
There may also be occult blood in the stool due to bleeding. In the case of gastric polyps, weight loss can also occur, despite the fact that there are no symptoms at all.
Diagnosis & History
Unexplained symptoms in the upper abdomen give a first indication of the possible presence of gastric polyps. The diagnosis is secured by a gastroscopy ( gastroscopy ), by means of which the condition of the inside of the stomach and the gastric mucosa can be examined and a biopsy (tissue removal) can be taken from the gastric mucosa.
A subsequent histological (histological) analysis of the tissue sample allows statements to be made about the malignancy or benignity of the removed tissue and determines the further therapeutic procedure. Gastric polyps have a good prognosis if therapy is started early, but should be monitored consistently after the end of therapy due to their high rate of recurrence during follow-up visits.
Due to the gastric polyps, the patient experiences various complaints and limitations in everyday life. Usually there is pain in the abdomen and stomach. The quality of life of the patient is significantly reduced by this pain and it is not uncommon for a loss of appetite to occur.
The loss of appetite can also lead to malnutrition and being underweight, both of which have a very negative effect on the patient’s health. There is also a feeling of fullness and vomiting of blood. The resilience of the affected person decreases significantly due to the gastric polyps and it is not uncommon for psychological complaints to occur due to the pain.
Patients are often irritable and uncomfortable. Stomach polyps can be detected relatively easily by means of a gastroscopy, so that this complaint can be treated immediately. The stomach polyps can be removed. Furthermore, those affected are dependent on taking various medications. Other complications usually do not arise until the polyps in the stomach have developed into cancer. At the same time, and as a rule, the life expectancy of the patient is not reduced.
When should you go to the doctor?
Many patients with gastric polyps have no symptoms or everyday discomfort. This complicates the signals that indicate the need for a doctor’s visit. If large polyps are present or if the number of gastric polyps is increasing, there are clear symptoms that need to be clarified by a doctor. Upper abdominal pain is an indication of an irregularity that should be investigated and treated. You should not take any pain medication without consulting a doctor, as various complications can occur. If the existing symptoms persist for several days or if they increase in intensity, a doctor’s visit is necessary.
If you experience nausea, vomiting or a feeling of fullness, you should consult a doctor. If blood is vomited or if there is blood in the stool, immediate action is required. A doctor’s visit is necessary to determine the cause. Without medical care, serious injuries to the stomach can occur, which can have life-threatening consequences. A doctor should also be contacted if you lose your appetite or lose weight unintentionally. If the person concerned is suddenly disgusted by food that was previously liked, this is to be understood as a warning from the organism. General digestive disorders or irregularities should be reported to a doctor if they persist for several days.
Treatment & Therapy
Depending on the histological findings, gastric polyps are divided into adenomatous and non-adenomatous types. Non-adenomatous gastric polyps are usually only biopsied and not removed.
Adenomatous gastric polyps (adenomas) are classified as precancerous (precancerous) and in many cases follow the adenoma-carcinoma developmental sequence. Due to this increased risk of degeneration, adenomatous gastric polyps are completely removed in a minimally invasive manner as part of an endoscopic mucosal resection or polypectomy.
While in a polypectomy the individual polyp is detached and removed from the gastric mucosa using a snare or clips wrapped around its base, in a mucosal resection the entire adjacent mucosal area is removed. The latter is usually performed in the presence of pernicious anemia ( vitamin B12 anemia ) or larger, broad-based gastric polyps to prevent the possible spread of tissue cells that can degenerate into carcinoma cells.
Larger tumors may require full-thickness excision (open or laparoscopic removal of the stomach wall) or partial resection (partial removal) of the stomach. Since gastric polyps have a relatively high rate of recurrence (recurrence), regular endoscopic follow-up checks are required in order to detect possible local recurrences at an early stage and, if necessary, to resect the gastric polyps.
Outlook & Forecast
Overall, gastric polyps have a favorable prognosis. If the diagnosis is made quickly and treatment is given immediately, the patient is usually released from therapy within a short time as symptom-free. Stomach polyps can recur at any time in life. If treatment measures are taken quickly, the prognosis in these cases is also favorable.
The challenge lies in an early diagnosis. Stomach polyps often go unnoticed for a long time, as they do not cause any symptoms, especially in the early stages. Long-term improvement is achieved once lifestyle changes take place. The diet should be optimized and the consumption of harmful substances should be avoided. This contributes significantly to improving overall health and preventing stomach polyps. In particular, patients who are already suffering from gastric polyps should pay attention to optimizing their diet in the further course.
If the disease progresses unfavorably, gastric polyps can lead to the development of carcinomas. In these cases, the prognosis is significantly worse. If left untreated, the affected person will die prematurely. It is therefore of particular importance to consult a doctor at the first irregularities. In addition, adults should regularly take part in the preventive medical check-ups offered to identify health impairments.
Since the causes of gastric polyps have not yet been fully clarified, there are no measures that directly prevent the disease. However, the known risk factors should be minimized. For example, gastritis can be prevented by a healthy diet (avoiding excessive consumption of nicotine, alcohol and coffee ). In addition, people over the age of 50 should be checked regularly for stomach polyps.
If the gastric polyps have been completely removed, polyp aftercare is recommended, based on the patient’s individual risk (comorbidities, diverticulosis, family history, histological examination). For example, if small, non-neoplastic polyps have been removed, a control colonoscopy is recommended every ten years; if three to ten polyps have been removed, a control examination should be carried out after three years.
If more than ten polyps have been removed, a close check is carried out every two to six months, followed by a colonoscopy at intervals of three to five years. The aim of the follow-up examinations is to detect renewed growth as early as possible and then to treat it accordingly. If symptoms such as changes in bowel movements, blood in the stool, pain or weight loss occur between the polyp aftercare, a doctor must be consulted immediately.
Normally, after the polyps have been removed, the treating doctor informs the patients about the measures or therapies that have been carried out or about which therapies appear to be necessary. The further check-up and follow-up examinations can then also be arranged with a resident doctor near your place of residence. In addition, during a follow-up examination there is the possibility of being able to contact a special specialist with any problems or questions.
You can do that yourself
Stomach polyps usually need to be removed as part of a gastroscopy or by surgery. Self-treatment with over-the-counter medication is not advisable, as the polyps can enlarge or even become malignant.
In order to prevent a recurrence, value should be placed on a high-fiber diet with a high plant content. Processed meat products and salted or heavily salted foods can damage the gastric mucosa and promote the development of gastric polyps. If the gastric polyps are associated with chronic gastritis, very fatty and high-sugar foods should also be avoided. Several small meals are easier for the stomach to digest than three large ones, and the food should be eaten neither too cold nor too hot. Natural medicinal plants such as turmeric, oregano and thymehave a digestive effect and can replace salt and hot spices in cooking. Ideally, digestion begins in the mouth: food that has been chewed carefully for a sufficiently long time puts far less strain on the stomach than large pieces that are swallowed hastily.
Stomach sufferers often do not tolerate carbonated drinks well, while tea preparations made from chamomile, mallow and lemon balm soothe an irritated gastric mucosa. Excessive consumption of alcohol and nicotine should be avoided completely if possible. Regular check-ups ensure that newly growing polyps can be discovered and removed as quickly as possible.