Polyps are outgrowths from mucous membranes, which may or may not be attached to the mucosal surface with a stalk. When a polyp has a stalk, it is called pedunculated, but when it does not have one, it is called sessile. The mucous membranes of the body are found in the linings of the nose, sinuses, stomach, colon, small intestine, uterus, cervix, and urinary bladder, thus these areas are also where these structures can grow. Symptoms of these outgrowths depend on where they occur, but usually they cause erosion of the mucous membrane, leading to bleeding or obstruction of the lumen of the involved organ. The definitive treatment for the condition is removal.
The three most common types based on the involved body parts are the colorectal, cervical, and nasal polyps. Colorectal growths occur either in the colon or rectum, or both. When they are present, a person may experience abdominal pain, cramping, constipation, and bleeding. Most of the time, they do not cause any symptoms. They are usually diagnosed through a rectal exam, barium enema, flexible sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy.
In a colonoscopy, a flexible tube that has a camera is inserted into the colon, and this camera then transmits images to a monitor. During a sigmoidoscopy, the flexible tube is only inserted up to the level of the lower colon and rectum. When colorectal polyps are found, they have to be removed immediately. Treatment involves removal through colonoscopy. It is particularly important to remove them as soon as they are diagnosed because they are precancerous growths.
The cervix connects the uterus and the vagina, and cervical polyps occur in this area and usually cause abnormal bleeding among women who have given birth and, either postmenopausal or premenopausal. They are not associated with sexually transmitted diseases and their cause is still unknown. Diagnosis of these growths usually happens during a pelvic exam. Unlike their colorectal counterparts, cervical growths rarely turn malignant. Treatment involves surgical removal, laser, or cauterization.
Nasal polyps occur in the sinuses and are usually associated with allergic rhinitis and sinusitis. These polyps can obstruct the nasal passages and lead to breathing difficulty, bleeding from the nose, frequent infections, and bad breath. Medical treatment involves nasal steroid spray, which reduces the inflammation and keep the polyp from growing. Surgical removal is sometimes necessary, particularly when the nasal sprays do not work and the person experiences worsening breathing difficulty.