What are colon polyps?
A colon polyp is a small clump of cells that are created on the lining of the colon. Most colon polyps are not harmful. But some colon polyps can develop into colon cancer, which is often fatal when found in its later stages.
Colon polyps are located and developed in your large intestine (colon). The cause of most colon polyps is unknown.
Regular screening tests are essential such as colonoscopy, because colon polyps found in the early stages can usually be removed safely and completely. The best prevention for colon cancer is screening for polyps regularly.
How common are colon polyps?
It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of colon polyps?
If you have colon polyps, there are several symptoms you can experience:
- Rectal bleeding. This can be a sign of colon polyps or cancer or other conditions, such as hemorrhoids or minor tears in your anus.
- Change in stool color. Blood can show up as red streaks in your stool or make stool appear black. But a change in color may also be caused by foods, medications, and supplements.
- Change in bowel habits. Constipation or diarrhea that lasts longer than a week may have the ability to have the presence of a large colon polyp. But a number of other conditions can also cause changes in bowel habits.
- Pain, nausea or vomiting. A large colon polyp can partially obstruct your bowel, leading to cramping abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
- Iron deficiency anemia. Bleeding from polyps can occur gradually, without visible blood in your stool. Chronic bleeding removes the iron which is necessary for your body to produce iron. This substance allows red blood cells to carry oxygen to your body (hemoglobin). The result is iron deficiency anemia, which can make you feel tired and short of breath.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in your stool
- A change in your bowel habits that lasts longer than a week
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes colon polyps?
The cause of colonic polyps is unclear, but polyps may be the result from abnormal tissue growth. The body periodically develops new healthy cells to replace old cells that are damaged or no longer needed. The growth and division of new cells is usually controlled. In some cases, however, new cells grow and divide before they’re needed. This excess growth causes polyps to form. The polyps can develop in any area of the colon.
What increases my risk for colon polyps?
There are many risk factors for colon polyps, such as:
- Being over age 50
- Being overweight
- Having a family history of polyps or colon cancer
- Having had polyps in the past
- Having had ovarian or uterine cancer before age 50
- Having an inflammatory condition that affects the colon, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- Having uncontrolled type 2 diabetes
- Having a hereditary disorder, such as lynch syndrome or Gardner’s syndrome
- Drinking alcohol frequently
- Having a sedentary lifestyle
- Eating a high-fat diet
Diagnosis & Treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is colon polyps diagnosed?
The doctor will first check your physical symptoms. If a colon polyp is suspected, they may request some tests to confirm the diagnosis.
- Stool tests. In a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) and a fecal occult blood test (FOBT), stool samples are checked for signs of cancer.
- Colonoscopy. In this test, the doctor inserts a small viewing tube all the way into your colon and looks for polyps. The doctor can also take out any polyps he or she finds.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy. This test is like a colonoscopy, except that the viewing tube is shorter so the doctor can only look at the last part of your colon. Doctors can remove polyps during this test.
- Less common screening tests include the stool DNA test (sDNA) and computed tomographic colonography (CTC).
How is colon polyps treated?
Your doctor is likely to remove all polyps discovered during a bowel examination. The options for removal include:
- Removal during screening. Most polyps can be removed with biopsy forceps or a wire loop that snares the polyp. This may be helped by injecting a liquid under a polyp to lift it off the wall for removal. If a polyp is larger than about 2 centimeters, a liquid may be injected under it to lift and isolate the polyps from surrounding tissue so that it can be removed (endoscopic mucosal resection).
- Minimally invasive surgery. Polyps that are too large or that can’t be reached safely during screening are usually removed using minimally invasive surgery.
- Colon and rectum removal. If you have a rare inherited syndrome, such as FAP, you may need surgery to remove your colon and rectum (total proctocolectomy).
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage colon polyps?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with colon polyps:
- Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Reducing your intake of high-fat foods, red meat, and processed foods.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Don’t use tobacco.
- Stay physically active and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Discuss with your doctor calcium. Studies have shown that increasing your consumption of calcium may help prevent recurrence of colon adenomas. But it isn’t clear whether calcium has any protective benefits against colon cancer.
- Aspirin problems. Regular aspirin use may reduce your risk of polyps. But aspirin use can increase your risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, so check with your doctor beforehand.
- Family history. If you have a family history of colon polyps, consider having genetic counseling. If you’ve been diagnosed with a hereditary disorder that causes colon polyps, you’ll need regular colonoscopy starting in young adulthood.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Colon polyps. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/colon-polyps/basics/prevention/con-20031957. Accessed Mar 17, 2017.
Colon Polyps - Topic Overview. http://www.webmd.com/colorectal-cancer/tc/colon-polyps-topic-overview#2. Accessed Mar 17, 2017.
Colonic (Colorectal) Polyps. http://www.healthline.com/health/colorectal-polyps#Prevention8. Accessed Mar 17, 2017.
Review Date: March 12, 2017 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019