Colon Polyps - Overview
Colon polyps are growths on the lining of the colon or rectum. The colon and the rectum are parts of the large intestine. It is all part of the digestive system.
The two most common kinds of polyp are:
- Adenomatous polyps—can become larger over time and may develop into cancer
- Hyperplastic polyps—do not increase in size and only rarely become cancerous
The cause of colon polyps is unknown. It may be partly due to hereditary factors. There is a genetic condition called polyposis coli. It causes thousands of adenomatous polyps throughout the bowel.
Risk factors for colon polyps include:
- Age: over 50 years
- Family members with colon polyps or colon cancer
- History of colorectal cancer or cancer of the large intestine
- Weight gain and obesity
Symptoms are often not present. Polyps are only found during an endoscopy or x-ray. If symptoms are present, they can include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Diarrhea, constipation, and/or bloating that lasts over a period of time
- Abdominal pain, rarely
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
- Your doctor may need to examine your rectum and colon and waste products. This can be done with:
- You may need to have pictures taken of your colon. This can be done with a barium enema and x-ray.
- You may need to have tissue samples tested for cancer cells. This can be done with a biopsy.
Depending on the size of the polyp, it may be removed. Large polyps are at high risk for becoming cancerous. They should be removed. Usually, polyps can be removed by colonoscopy.
If the polyps are very large, you may need to have surgery to have them removed. Your doctor may send the tissue from the removed polyps to be tested for cancer.
It’s not clear how polyps can be prevented. However, the following guidelines can help you stay healthy and may help prevent not only polyps but also colon cancer:
- Eat a high fiber diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Reduce the amount of animal fat in your diet. This occurs in beef and other meat products as well as full-fat dairy products.
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Avoid smoking.
- See your doctor for regular screenings after the age of 50.
- More frequent screenings may be needed if polyps are found.
This content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Swedish Medical Center. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.