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Illustration of nasal polyp

Illustration of nasal polyp
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Polyps

A polyp is a growth on an organ in your body. Most polyps are benign, which means they are often harmless. But some are or might become malignant, which means they can spread.

Polyps types

Polyps can grow:

  • in your ear canal, and are called aural
  • on the cervix, and are called cervical
  • on the lining of the colon, and are called colonic
  • found inside the nose, and are called nasal
  • in the lining of your stomach, and are called stomach or gastric
  • inside the uterus, and are called uterine.

 

What causes polyps?

Polyps are caused by abnormal growth of cells. Often there is no obvious cause.

Polyps symptoms

If you have polyps, you might or might not get symptoms. If you do, they will include:

  • aural polyps – loss of hearing and bloody discharge from your ear
  • cervical polyps – abnormal bleeding or heavy periods
  • colonic polyps – blood in your stool, pain, constipation or diarrhoea
  • nasal polyps – a feeling like a cold that won’t go away
  • uterine – irregular menstrual bleeding
  • stomach – pain, tenderness, nausea, vomiting and bleeding.

Diagnosis and treatment of polyps

Treatment will depend on the type of polyp.

If your doctor thinks you have a polyp you may have a biopsy. This means the doctor takes a sample and analyses it under a microscope.

If the polyp is difficult to reach, your doctor may suggest a different procedure. Or you may have an endoscopy to get the biopsy.

Treatment will depend on:

  • whether or not a polyp is cancerous
  • how many polyps are found and where
  • their size.

Some polyps will not require treatment. Others may be removed to reduce the risk of cancer.

Polyps prevention

Some people have a lot of polyps in the family. This means they have a higher than normal chance of having polyps.

If you’re at risk of developing polyps, talk to your doctor about how to prevent them.

Regular screening may be suggested if you have a family history of some types of polyps or depending on your age.

Eating a healthy diet and avoiding smoking will reduce the risk of some polyps.

Last reviewed: December 2015

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