What are colorectal polyps?
A colorectal, or colonic polyp is a growth on the lining of the colon or rectum. Polyps can vary in size and number. There are three types of colorectal polyps:
- Hyperplastic polyps are harmless and do not develop into cancer.
- Adenomatous polyps are the most common. Although most will never develop into cancer, they do have the potential to develop into colon cancer.
- Malignant polyps are polyps that are noted under microscopic examination to have cancer cells in them.
How common are colorectal polyps?
Polyps are very common in men and women of all races who live in industrialized countries, suggesting that dietary and environmental factors play a role in their development. Colorectal cancer and polyps are uncommon before age 40. Ninety percent of cases occur after age 50, with men somewhat more likely to develop polyps than women; therefore, colon cancer screening is usually recommended starting at age 50 for both sexes. It takes approximately 10 years for a small polyp to develop into cancer. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of colorectal polyps?
The common symptoms of colorectal polyp are:
- Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding
- Pain, diarrhea, or constipation that lasts longer than one week
- Nausea or vomiting if you have a large polyp
In most cases, polyps do not cause symptoms and are usually found on routine colon cancer screening exams.
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?
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 colorectal polyps?
Doctors don’t know the exact cause of colonic polyps, but polyps 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 regulated. 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 colorectal polyps?
There are many risk for colorectal polyps, such as:
- 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
Lifestyle behaviors that may contribute to the growth of colonic polyps include:
- 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 are colorectal polyps diagnosed?
Polyps can be found on a number of tests. These tests may include:
- Colonoscopy: During this procedure, a camera attached to a thin, flexible tube is threaded through the anus. This allows your doctor to view the rectum and colon. If a polyp is found, your doctor can remove it immediately or take tissue samples for analysis.
- Sigmoidoscopy: This screening method is similar to a colonoscopy, but it can only be used to see the rectum and lower colon. It can’t be used to take a biopsy, or a sample of tissue. If your doctor detects a polyp, you’ll need to schedule a colonoscopy to have it removed.
- Barium enema: For this test, your doctor injects liquid barium into your rectum and then uses a special X-ray to take images of your colon. Barium makes your colon appear white in the pictures. Since polyps are dark, they’re easy to identify against the white color.
- CT colonography: This procedure uses a CT scan to construct images of the colon and rectum. After the scan, a computer combines the images of the colon and rectum to produce both 2- and 3-D views of the area. A CT colonography is sometimes called a virtual colonoscopy. It can show swollen tissues, masses, ulcers, and polyps.
- Stool test: Your doctor will give you a test kit and instructions for providing a stool sample. You’ll return the sample to your doctor’s office for analysis, especially to test for microscopic bleeding. This test will show if you have blood in your stool, which can be a sign of a polyp.
How are colorectal 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 aided by injecting a liquid under a polyp to lift it off the wall for removal. If a polyp is larger than 0.75 inches (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).
Some types of colon polyp are far likelier to become malignant than are others. But a doctor who specializes in analyzing tissue samples (pathologist) usually must examine polyp tissue under a microscope to determine whether it’s potentially cancerous.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage colorectal polyps?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with colorectal polyp:
- Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption
- Exercise more
- Avoid a high-fat diet and adopt a healthier diet
- Regularly take a low dose of aspirin
- Add more calcium to your diet
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/definition/con-20031957. Accessed 17 Apr 2017
- Colorectal polyps. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000266.htm. Accessed 17 Apr 2017
- Colonic (Colorectal) Polyps. http://www.healthline.com/health/colorectal-polyps#Overview1. Accessed 17 Apr 2017
Review Date: August 3, 2017 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019