A polyp is a benign (non-cancerous) growth. They can commonly occur, for example, in the following organs among others:
Colon (large intestine): About 25% to 50% of adults over 50 years-old may have colonic polyps. Most are the type called tubular adenoma, which carries slight risk of turning into cancer. Routine colonoscopies remove and biopsy these, to make sure there’s no cancer beginning. In that sense, a colonoscopy is not only a diagnostic test, but is also preventive treatment by removing the polyps. People with tubular adenomas (sometimes just called “adenomas” or “adenomatous polyps”) should have repeat colonoscopies every 5-10 years, since they tend to recur.
Other types of colonic polyps act differently. A villous adenoma has more potential to cause cancer than simple tubular adenomas mentioned above, so colonoscopies should be repeated more often after removal. The same goes for “tubulo-villous” adenomas, a cross between the two types mentioned above. A “hyperplastic polyp,” however, is so benign that the finding is ignored, and screening for colon cancer (by colonoscopy or other tests) continues as usual.
Nose: Nasal polyps usually have no symptoms, but they can be uncomfortable if they interfere with nose-breathing. Although not dangerous, they may make it easier to get sinus infections. Allergy Medicines can help. The polyps can be removed by surgery, but often grow back; patients should then use a variety of daily allergy medicines to prevent this.
People with nasal polyps who also have asthma, may be deathly allergic to aspirin and NSAID medications. They should see an allergist for diagnosis, and maybe try a program of aspirin desensitization, under guidance from the specialist.
Uterus: Polyps can occur on either the Cervix or Endometrium (see Diagram — Female Genital System). In studies, up to 25% of uteruses from hysterectomies have polyps in them, most of which never caused symptoms. The main symptom, if present, would be vaginal bleeding. Neither of these types of polyps turn into cancer, but they get diagnosed as we do tests to rule out cancer. See also our symptom topic Irregular Bleeding.
Larynx (voice box): Laryngeal Polyps are uncommon. They can cause hoarseness and voice changes, and are mostly due to overuse of voice: singers & screamers (but also anyone). Julie Andrews suffered from them, and after surgery, her voice wound up the worse for it. Dr. Anthony Fauci had the surgery as well, and seems to be doing well.