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What is Gardner's Syndrome?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Jan 24, 2024
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Gardner’s syndrome is a disorder associated with the colon. With this type of colon disorder, there are a number of polyps found in the organ, along with tumors that develop overtime. The origins of this type of condition are understood to be genetic in nature, and can increase the potential for the development of colon cancer.

The health condition is named after Eldon J. Gardner, a professor who first identified and defined the syndrome in 1951. While research has uncovered more information about Gardner’s Syndrome since then, the basics of what Gardner first presented still hold true. Many of the gains in knowledge about this type of colon disorder have come about as modern medicine has come to understand the role genetics play in the transmission of diseases and health issues from one generation to the next.

There are several signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of Gardner’s Syndrome. The teeth often serve as one of the more common of all Gardner’s Syndrome symptoms. When the condition is present, there may be a number of impacted teeth, as well as the presence of osteomas in the area of the jaw.

Another of the most common symptoms of Gardner’s Syndrome is inflammation in the colon that is manifested by difficulty in eliminating waste, a sense of feeling full for long periods of time, and the development of a recurring low grade temperature. As the polyps and tumors begin to enlarge, the symptoms will become more pronounced. If left untreated, the condition can cause damage to the bowels in general, as well as set the stage for the spread of tumors to other parts of the body.

Obtaining a diagnosis for Gardner’s Syndrome usually involves tests that make it possible to assess the condition of the colon. Once the presence of the polyps and tumors are discovered, it is often necessary to use some type of surgery to secure samples and test them to see if they are benign or malignant. Today, the samples can often be secured using minimally invasive techniques. Depending on the findings, the physician may choose to monitor the condition for a time, or schedule surgery to remove the tumors and polyps before they can begin to impact other organs.

Today, Gardner’s Syndrome is not always viewed as a distinct condition. More often, the syndrome is considered to be a variant form of a condition known as familial adenomatous polyposis or FAP. Still, the condition has the potential to lead to the development of cancer in the colon and other areas of the body, a fact that leads some health care professionals to still classify the syndrome as a separate health ailment.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon997960 — On Mar 23, 2017

I am concerned that my 12 year old son may have this condition. We have no known cases in either family that we are aware of. He has two sebaceous cysts on his skull, a peg tooth and a missing tooth. That's it, really. He often complains about stomach upset, but has a lot of allergies. Am I just blowing this out of proportion or is there a chance of varying degrees of the illness?

By anon299200 — On Oct 24, 2012

I have a large cranial osteoma just above my left ear and recently in the last two years another two osteomas have started growing quite noticeably on my skull in other areas. I don't really have any other gastric related symptoms apart from the fact that I don't often have an appetite.

I am 35 and I am worried that this may be the early symptoms of Gardner's. I did have leukemia at the age of two, where I had cranial radiotherapy. Would anyone who has more knowledge of Gardner's syndrome be able to respond with what they think? Many thanks.

By anon271013 — On May 24, 2012

I have not been "officially" diagnosed with Gardner Syndrome, but I have been to several dentists and one at UMKC who thinks that I may have it by the symptoms I have.

In January 2009, I had surgery to remove my colon and the doctor said that he found over a hundred polyps. He said he thought some had been there since birth. I also have the symptoms such as sebaceous cysts, impacted teeth and the growths in my jaws. Everything I read about this rare disease hits close to home. I also have the fatigue and back problems.

By anon189936 — On Jun 24, 2011

My son was first diagnosed with Gardner's Syndrome when he was a year old. He had to have an operation on his lower back to remove and run tests on a tumor that was growing. He has also numerous tumors located on other parts of his body.

Since the operation, the tumor has tripled in size and now cannot be removed, so he has to start radiation treatments. He is now three years old. He also has to do the scopes to check out his colon and other organs.

Has anyone else had a child so young who is going through the same problem? I've been trying to do some research on this and I can not find anything. Also this is genetic because my husband has it and that's how my son has gotten it. Also it can be carried through other family members but they may not show any signs of it, but when they have a child they can have the syndrome.

By anon157683 — On Mar 03, 2011

it is not true about getting gardner's syndrome. i have it and nobody in my family has it. i am the first. everybody in my family has been tested and all negative. i know it hurts too.

By anon153173 — On Feb 16, 2011

My mum was diagnosed back in 75 when she was 39 years old, my sister, brother and I were all tested but told we didn't have it, I had bleeding at 20 and was diagnosed with it.

I have two children now 25 and 28, both have it, we have all had our large bowel and rectum removed but no bag as we have a pelvic pouch, which is much better for my kids. My youngest had her op at 16, and my son had his at 24. Both doing well at the moment.

Me though, I just found out I have a lot of polyps in my duodenum, and I lost a lot of weight so I phoned my specialist, who sent me for ct scan, upper and lower oscopies. I haven't seen my specialist yet so don't know what they will do. I have been told the polyps you get in your duodenum are the same as the ones you get in your large bowel. If anyone out there knows more, I would love to hear from them. Karen

By anon148512 — On Feb 01, 2011

my daughter was confirmed with gardener's syndrome before she was four. i also have a uncle who had it and died at 17 years old.

By anon148494 — On Feb 01, 2011

my daughter at the age of 6 months showed signs of it. it is through the family and it is rare. You'd have to be part of the family to have it.

By anon148492 — On Feb 01, 2011

i am 42. i have gardners syndrome. the only way you can have it is by family. i have a daughter who has it, a mother, an uncle, a grandmother, a great-grand father. 99 percent of the time you will die of colon cancer. yes most polyps are non cancer abd so are the tumors. did you know that the tumor doesn't have to be cancer to be deadly? it acts like a cancer tumor. it's worse than a cancer tumor?

By anon145075 — On Jan 21, 2011

I was diagnosed with Gardener's in 1976, when I was 30 years old. I had my my colon removed that year. No ostomy; 200-400 polyps estimated, none cancerous.

I have supernumerary teeth; pigment differences in mouth; multiple osteomas on my mandible and cranium; sebaceous cysts and my stomach is carpeted with benign polyps.

I had a resection of my Ampulla of Avatar to remove a cancerous polyp (pancreatic cancer) in June 2001. In Feb. 2002 a cancerous polyp in my duodenum resulted in my having a Whipple procedure (removal of half of stomach, pancreas, duodenum plus a foot or two of small intestine). I have endoscopies and colonoscopies every six months, with fulguration of rectal polyps.

I have just been advised that I have a suspicious mass in my left orbit. It is pressing against the eyeball. I am not sure if it is another benign osteoma or a metastatic cancer. Either way, I think I will need a pirate's patch. My oncology surgeon says I am the "poster boy" for Gardner's. I have it all and this thing in my eye may be just one more symptom. I am 64 years old.

By bpierson213 — On Dec 05, 2010

My ex-husband had Gardner Syndrome most of his life and my son is 11 years old and was diagnosed when he was two years old. They get stomach aches and grow a lot of internal polyps/tumors as well as external. They grow calcium deposits (knots) all over their heads, which cause headaches.

They receive upper/lower GI every year or every six months to remove the polyps. From what I have heard and read, they commonly get colon cancer. My ex-husband got pancreatic cancer and passed away in October. The doctor says there is no cure and all cases eventually get cancer. There is a 50 percent chance that a person with gardner syndrome children will also carry the gene and have it.

I have three children and only one of them carries the gene. If you looked at them you would wonder what the bumps are from but would not know they had anything wrong with them unless they tell you. They also have a lot of teeth problems because they grow a lot of extra teeth. I hope this info is helpful for you.

By anon131759 — On Dec 03, 2010

i have to do a project on gardner syndrome and i want to know what a typical day is like for someone who is diagnosed. I'm not saying that people who do have it are any different than anyone else but i just need to know.

By bpierson213 — On Oct 20, 2010

My ex-husband was diagnosed with gardeners in his early teens. He has many health issues from this condition. He is 50 years old and five months ago he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He does not have much longer to live. My son is 11 years old and was diagnosed when he was a year old. He has many visible tumors mostly on the back of his head. He receives upper and lower GI every six months for polyp removal. This is a terrible genetic condition.

By anon119618 — On Oct 18, 2010

The best way is to consult with your doctor and have routine colonoscopies done as directed. My husband has this but did not find out until he was stage 3 colorectal cancer. He had to have his colon removed.

We are currently battling colon cancer in his lymph nodes now. Preventative testing is imperative. After diagnosis, our daughter tested positive for the gene and had several hundred polyps by age 14 and had to have her colon removed as well.

By CellMania — On Sep 27, 2010

My brother-in-law was diagnosed with Gardner’s syndrome about a year ago. We had never even heard of it so I did a lot of research to try to gain a better understanding of his condition. I found a lot of good information and he has excellent doctors who have provided me with many resources with great info.

In over half of the people with the disease, the polyps are found in the stomach. Most of the time, the stomach polyps do not become cancerous. Also, polyps are found in the small intestine in over 90% of people with the disease and approximately 15% of those become cancerous. Polyps that are found in the colon will become cancerous in just about every person with the disease by the age of 50.

My brother-in-law is doing very well and stays in great spirits. Medical research has provided much help to those with this disease.

By WaterHopper — On Sep 27, 2010

There is a gene called APC (adenomatous polyposis coli) that is present in well over 80% of the people that have Gardner’s syndrome. Studies done have determined that this genetic abnormality can lead to the development of the numerous polyps. What causes the abnormality, other than heredity, is not known.

By medicchristy — On Sep 27, 2010

@carrotisland: For many people with Gardner’s syndrome, there are multiple polyps found during endoscopies that are being done for other reasons. Many of the polyps are also found during surgeries for completely unrelated problems.

Polyps normally develop at a young age, often in the teen years. By the age of 35, almost all of the people with this disease will have polyps.

Also, Gardner’s syndrome has a very strong pattern of inheritance. If anyone has a close relative with it, they should be tested for the presence of abnormal polyps.

By CarrotIsland — On Sep 27, 2010

How would one know that he or she has Gardner's Syndrome? I mean, would you complain of the symptoms of a polyps or is there some other way to tell?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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