A colon polyp is a small cluster of cells that forms on the lining of the colon. Most colon polyps are harmless, but if not removed, they can develop into cancer.
Anyone can have colon polyps, although there is a higher risk if you are 50 years or older, overweight, smoke, or have a personal or family history of colon polyps or colon cancer.
Because colon polyps found in the early stages can usually be removed safely and completely, the best prevention for colon cancer is regular screening for polyps.
Types of Colon Polyps
Signs & Symptoms of Colon Polyps
- There are usually no symptoms
- Most often physician finds polyps during exam like colonoscopy
- Some people do experience signs:
- Rectal bleeding
- Change in stool color
- Change in bowel habits
- Iron deficiency anemia
When to See a Doctor About Polyps
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in stool
- Change in bowel habits that last longer than a week
When to be Screened Regularly for Polyps
- Age 50 or older
- Family history
- High-risk people should begin earlier than age 50
Causes of Polyps
New, healthy cells grow and divide in a methodical way. When certain genes have mutations they cause cells to continue dividing, long after new cells are needed. This unregulated increase in growth can cause polyps to form in the colon and rectum.
Diagnosis of Polyps
- Screening tests play a key role in detecting polyps before they become cancerous. These tests can also help find colorectal cancer in its early stages, when you have a good chance of recovery.
Screening Methods for Polyps
- Virtual colonoscopy (CT colonography)
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy
Treatment of Polyps
- Physician removes all polyps during a colonoscopy
- Physician removes polyps following results from other screening