I have been seeing an increasing number of patients coming to me complaining about stomach problems such as indigestion, stomach pain, heartburn or fatigue. Of course, this can often be attributed to signs of stress, exhaustion, or any of the numerous difficult life events we face every day.
But if you are experiencing a constant aching pain in your stomach, or tenderness when pressing on it, you may want to get checked for stomach polyps.
What are stomach polyps?
Stomach polyps, also commonly known as gastric polyps, are a rare abnormal tissue growth that typically form in the upper region of the stomach. Clustered together as masses of cells, stomach polyps can grow in size greater than 1 cm and appear as small, smooth flat bumps on your stomach lining.
Before you get worried, let me assure you that most of the cases of stomach polyps I have seen in patients have been small and benign (non-cancerous).
However, I have seen patients who have ignored their symptoms, which has led to complications arising. Larger polyps may have a higher chance of becoming cancerous1, so if you think you might have stomach polyps or are at risk of it, I highly recommend consulting a doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential in preventing more severe symptoms down the line.
What are some telltale signs of stomach polyps?
While most stomach polyps do not usually cause any signs or symptoms, they can sometimes enlarge and develop into open sores on the surface of your stomach lining. In rare cases, the polyp can even block the gastrointestinal tract, especially between your stomach and small intestine.
If you experience any of these symptoms on a regular basis, you might want to head to a doctor for a consultation:
- acid reflux
- stomach pain
- feeling full quickly
- gastrointestinal bleeding
- Blood in stools
Although this is not an exhaustive list, it must be noted that not every case of polyps produces recognisable symptoms. Many patients may not even realize that they have polyps. Hence, it is important to get screened through a gastroscopy or colonoscopy regularly.
Regular screening can also catch more severe diseases early, such as stomach cancer. I recommend going for stomach cancer screenings as early as 40.
The risks of getting polyps can climb higher if you are older than 40, smoke, or don’t maintain a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise2.
What are the different types of stomach polyps, and which should be paid special attention to?
The most common types of stomach polyps are:
Gastric hyperplastic polyps (GHP)
These are the most common types of polyps, which occur when the stomach produces too many mucus-secreting cells.
Fundic gland polyps (FGP)
These occur when the stomach’s acid-producing cells bundle up and dilate irregularly.
These form when some of the cells in a stomach multiply at an unusual rate, but often in noncancerous ways. However, they may become malignant (or cancerous), and so early diagnosis is important to reduce risks.
What are the testing options for stomach polyps in Singapore?
If you are suffering from the aforementioned symptoms for an extended period of time, and feel that it is time to get checked and be handed a proper diagnosis, I offer a range of testing and treatment options in my clinic.
To detect stomach polyps, I do an endoscopy of the stomach. I use a tiny camera mounted at the end of a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope, to investigate the esophagus and stomach from the mouth to the start of the small intestine.
How is this condition treated?
Polypectomy is the surgical procedure of removing polyps from different parts of your body, usually in the stomach or colon (large intestine). It is done in conjunction with the gastroscopy, or colonoscopy, where your surgeon is able to examine your entire large intestine, together with your rectum and anus. Through this procedure, we will be able to detect and remove the unwanted growths on your stomach lining.
To rule out cancer, I recommend that the polypectomy be done with a histology, in which the polyps are examined to check if they are cancerous in nature.
To put your mind at ease, let me assure you that the polypectomy procedure is simple, minimally-invasive and faces a low risk of complication. You will be discharged on the day of the procedure or a day after, and most patients recover completely within a few hours.
To sum up:
Stomach polyps, while usually benign and harmless, could be a precursor to cancerous growth, and should be diagnosed and treated early on. So if you feel like you are suffering from the symptoms listed above for an extended period of time, please approach a specialist to get a proper diagnosis.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me either here or at G&L Surgical Clinic’s website.
- Jain, R., & Chetty, R. (2009). Gastric hyperplastic polyps: a review. Digestive diseases and sciences, 54(9), 1839–1846. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10620-008-0572-8
- Cao, W., Hou, G., Zhang, X., San, H., & Zheng, J. (2018). Potential risk factors related to the development of gastric polyps. Immunopharmacology and immunotoxicology, 40(4), 338–343. https://doi.org/10.1080/08923973.2018.1490317
This article was written and medically reviewed by Dr. Ganesh Ramalingam, M.D.