A polyp is an outgrowth of tissue from the lining of the large intestine or small intestine and sometimes the stomach. A polyp may look like a mushroom with a narrow stalk attached to the gastrointestinal wall, or it may grow flat against the gastrointestinal wall.
Most children with a polyp or polyps develop a form of polyp known as a juvenile polyp, which is different than the type typically found in adults. A juvenile polyp usually poses no risk of malignancy (cancer).
Some children may be found to have inherited syndromes in which polyps are common and tend to reoccur over time. These include:
- Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome. This syndrome causes an enlarged head, noncancerous tumors and tumor-like growths called hamartomas. In males, dark freckles are present on the penis. These signs and symptoms are apparent at birth or in early childhood.
- Cowden syndrome. This syndrome is characterized by the growth of noncancerous, tumor-like hamartomas. The growths most often occur on the skin, mucous membranes and intestines.
- Familial adenomatous polyposis. This is a disorder in which numerous polyps form in the colon. If the polyps are uncontrolled, they can become cancerous. Colectomy is frequently needed by adulthood.
- Juvenile polyposis syndrome. This syndrome causes multiple benign growths of less-developed tissue to form in the gastrointestinal tract, typically before age 20.
- Peutz-Jeghers syndrome. This syndrome is characterized by noncancerous hamartomatous polyps that form in the stomach and intestines and dark spots that form on the lips, inside the mouth and around and near the anus, eyes, nostrils and mouth.
The most common symptom of polyps is blood in the stool for several weeks or months.
Other less common symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Protrusion of a polyp outside the rectum
Diagnosis of Polyps
If your child experiences symptoms of polyps—especially if there is frequent blood in the stool or a polyp is visible outside the rectum—a pediatric gastroenterologist can perform the following exams and tests to make a diagnosis:
- Colonoscopy. Your child's doctor may perform a colonoscopy to examine the colon and part of the small intestine.
- Upper endoscopy. Your child's doctor may perform an upper gastrointestinal (UG) endoscopy to view the stomach and small intestine.
- Biopsy. Your child's doctor may perform a biopsy of the polyp to study the cells in the tissue.
- Polyp removal. If your child has a single polyp, he or she will likely need no other treatment once the polyp is removed. A polyp may be removed during a colonoscopy. If the polyp is very large, it may require surgical removal, though this is very rare.
- Polyp monitoring. If your child has multiple polyps or pathology testing determines your child to have one of several possible genetic syndromes, routine monitoring of the intestine via colonoscopy may be recommended to check for precancerous polyps.
Key Points to Remember
Key Points to Remember
- If your child has blood in his or her stool for a prolonged period, a polyp is one possible cause.
- Your child's doctor may perform a colonoscopy, an upper endoscopy or a biopsy to remove and diagnose the cause of a polyp.
- Most juvenile polyps do not pose any risk of further complications, but they do need to be removed.
- Some children have inherited syndromes in which polyps are common and tend to reoccur over time. In these cases, routine monitoring is recommended to check for precancerous polyps.
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