A hyperplastic polyp is a growth of extra cells that projects out from tissues inside your body. They occur in areas where your body has repaired damaged tissue, especially along your digestive tract.
Hyperplastic colorectal polyps happen in your colon, the lining of your large intestine. Hyperplastic gastric or stomach polyps appear in the epithelium, the layer of tissue that lines the inside of your stomach.
Hyperplastic polyps are usually found during a colonoscopy. They’re relatively common and usually benign, meaning they aren’t cancerous.
There are several types of hyperplastic polyps, which vary according to their shape, including:
- pedunculated: long and narrow with a mushroom-like stalk
- sessile: shorter and squat-looking
- serrated: flat, short, and wide around the bottom
A hyperplastic polyp in your colon isn’t necessarily a cause for concern. Hyperplastic polyps rarely turn into colon cancer. They tend not to cause any other major health problems, either. Your risk of colon cancer is much lower if you only have one or a few of these polyps in your colon. Larger hyperplastic polyps are more likely to develop into cancer.
Having multiple hyperplastic polyps in your colon is known as hyperplastic polyposis. This condition puts you at a 50 percent higher risk for developing colorectal cancer. One study found that over half of the participants with hyperplastic polyposis eventually developed colorectal cancer.
In addition, research suggests that hyperplastic polyposis is more likely to develop into colon cancer if you have certain risk factors, including:
- being male
- being obese
- eating a lot of red meat
- not getting enough exercise
- frequent, long-term tobacco smoking
- regularly drinking alcohol
- having an inflammatory bowel condition, such as Crohn’s disease
- having polyps in your right (ascending) colon
Your cancer risk may be lower if you:
- use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil)
- are receiving hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- get enough calcium in your diet
Hyperplastic polyps can also appear in your stomach. In fact, they’re the most common type of stomach polyps. They’re usually benign and rarely develop into cancer.
Small stomach polyps are generally harmless and don’t cause noticeable symptoms. However, larger polyps may cause:
- stomach pain
- losing an unusual amount of weight
- blood in your stool
Your risk of getting stomach polyps increases as you get older. When it comes to developing a cancerous hyperplastic stomach polyp, the following things can increase your risk:
- having a stomach infection caused by Helicobacter pylori bacteria
- having a family history of cancerous stomach polyps
- regularly using medications for stomach acid, such as proton pump inhibitors
If your doctor finds stomach or colon polyps during a colonoscopy, their follow-up instructions may vary based on the size, location, and type of polyps that they found.
If you only have one small hyperplastic polyp in your colon or stomach, your doctor will likely do a biopsy, which involves taking a small tissue sample from the polyp and looking at it under a microscope.
If the biopsy shows that the polyp isn’t cancerous, you likely won’t need any immediate treatment. Instead, you might be asked to come back for regular colonoscopies every 5 to 10 years, especially if you have a higher risk of colon cancer.
If your doctor suspects that polyps are cancerous, they may schedule follow-up blood tests or antibody tests to confirm the diagnosis.
In many cases, your doctor can remove any large polyps that they find during a colonoscopy or stomach endoscopy with a device attached to the scope that enters your colon or stomach. Your doctor might also remove polyps if you have a lot of them.
In rare cases, you may need to schedule a separate appointment to remove them.
If a hyperplastic polyp is cancerous, your doctor will discuss the next steps for cancer treatment with you, including:
- partial or total colon removal
- partial or total stomach removal
- targeted drug therapy
Getting polyps removed before they become cancerous lowers your risk of developing colorectal or stomach cancer by almost 80 percent.
Most hyperplastic polyps in your stomach or colon are harmless and won’t ever become cancerous. They’re often easily removed during a routine endoscopic procedure. Follow-up endoscopies can help you make sure any new polyps are removed quickly and safely.