Difference Between Cyst and Polyp

Main Difference – Cyst vs Polyp

Cyst and polyp are two  two medical terms which are often used interchangeably due to lack of knowledge about how to differentiate one from the other. A cyst is an air, fluid or semi-solid substance filled cavity which can develop in any part of the body including bones, organs or soft tissues whereas a polyp is an abnormal growth of tissue, protruding from the mucous membrane. This is the main difference between cyst and polyp. 

This article explores,

1. What is a Cyst?
     – Features, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

2. What is a Polyp?
     – Features, Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

3. Difference Between Cyst and PolypDifference Between Cyst and Polyp - Cyst vs Polyp Comparison Summary

What is a Cyst

A cyst is an air, fluid or semi-solid substance filled cavity which can develop in any part of the body including bones, organs or soft tissues. Most cysts are benign in nature and they do not have a chance of becoming a cancerous, fatal growth even though there can be few exceptional cases.

Cysts usually have a regular margin that is covered by an outer layer referred to as the capsule and this covers the inner material of air or fluid which fills the lumen.

Causes of Cyst

The major causes for a cyst to develop in our body include,

  • Bacterial infections
  • Clogging or blockage of sebaceous glands with their own secretions
  • Obstruction of other glands with foreign bodies
  • Obstruction of the flow of natural fluids inside the body

Commonest examples for cysts include sebaceous (Epidermoid) cysts-tiny bumps which lie beneath the skin, Hepatic cysts which occur in the liver tissue, kidney (renal) cysts, breast and ovarian cysts.

In case you notice a lump or bump on your skin which is found to be painful, itchy or progressively increasing in size, it is highly recommended to seek immediate medical. Your doctor will take a history about how the cyst appeared initially, grew up with time and other associated symptoms which will then be followed by a clinical examination. The doctor will palpate the cyst over the skin and find the size, consistency and texture of the lump or bump using various instruments. The cyst will usually be felt soft to the hand since it is more likely to be filled with fluid, air or semi-solid materials.

Treatment modalities for cysts depend on its size, location, extension and severity. Most cysts can be treated with incision and drainage under local anaesthesia whereas some extensively spread ones might need surgical intervention.

However, it is highly advisable to do relevant tests and imaging studies to carry out required treatments as soon as the diagnosis is made, since some cysts can enlarge rapidly over a short period of time and rupture, giving rise to several complications which might be fatal.

Cysts in the ovaries and abdomen should be managed very carefully since the rupture of them can severely contaminate the pelvic and peritoneal cavities, respectively, which might result in several life-threatening conditions.

Main Difference - Cyst vs Polyp

High magnification micrograph of a mediastinal bronchogenic cyst.

What is a Polyp

A polyp is defined as an abnormal growth of tissue, protruding out from the mucous membrane. These are usually found in colon, cervix, stomach, nose, uterus, throat and ear canal and usually, do not exceed half an inch in its width.

Causes of Polyp

Major causes for polyps to grow include,

  • Inflammation
  • Foreign bodies
  • Cysts and tumors
  • Mutation of colon cell genes
  • Chronic inflammation in the stomach
  • Excessive estrogen levels (hormonal replacement therapy)

Types of Polyps

  • Pedunculated polyp – ones which have a narrow elongated stalk, connecting the tissue growth to the mucous membrane.
  • Sassile polyp -ones which do not have a polyp and directly connects to the mucous membrane

Most polyps are benign or non-cancerous in nature, but there is a potential for transforming into malignant ones since there is a rapid multiplication of abnormal cells.

Doctor diagnose polyps by taking a complete history from the patient along with a thorough physical examination which will be helpful to identify other signs associated. A skin biopsy will confirm the diagnosis of a polyp which will further determine the benign or malignant nature of it.

Most benign polyps do not need any intervention, but some might require surgical management, depending on its nature, size, severity and results of the biopsy.

  • Throat polyps- Rest and voice therapy
  • Colon polyps – Removal of the polyp using colonoscopy
  • cervical and uterine polyps – Progestin and Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists
  • Nasal polyps – Nasal steroids or Corticosteroid treatments
    Difference Between Cyst and Polyp

    Micrograph of a colorectal hyperplastic polyp

Difference Between Cyst and Polyp

A cyst is defined as an air, fluid or semi-solid substance filled cavity which can develop in any part of the body including bones, organs or soft tissues.

A polyp is defined as an abnormal growth of tissue, protruding from the mucous membrane.

Cysts are usually benign and rarely transform into malignant growths.

Polyps have a higher chance of transforming into cancerous ones.

Image Courtesy:

“Bronchogenic cyst high mag” By Nephron – Own work via

“Hyperplastic polyp1″ By Own work via

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music


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