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A polyp is a growth on or in an organ in your body. Most polyps are benign, which means they are not cancerous. But some are or might become malignant (cancerous), which means they can spread.

Polyps types

Places polyps can grow inlude:

  • in your ear canal (aural polyps)
  • on the cervix (cervical polyps)
  • on the lining of the colon (colonic polyps)
  • found inside the nose (nasal polyps)
  • in the throat (throat polyps)
  • in the lining of your stomach (gastric polyps)
  • in the bladder (bladder polyps)
  • inside the uterus (uterine polyps)

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 could 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, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhoea
  • nasal polyps — feeling like you have a cold that won't go away, headaches or loss of smell
  • throat — hoarse and breathy voice that develops over days to weeks
  • uterine — irregular menstrual bleeding
  • bladder — blood in urine or painful and frequent urination
  • 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 might have a biopsy. This means the doctor takes a sample of the polyp for laboratory analysis under a microscope.

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

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 need to be removed to reduce the risk of cancer.

Polyps prevention

If you have a family history of some types of polyps, you have a higher than normal chance of getting polyps too.

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

Your doctor might suggest you have regular screening for polyps, depending on your age and if you have a family history of certain types of polyps.

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

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Last reviewed: March 2020

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