What are colon polyps?

A colon polyp is a lump on the lining of the colon (large intestine). A polyp can be flat against the large intestine or raised. If the polyp is flat, it is more likely to be cancerous (malignant). This is because flat polyps are more difficult to detect and remove. More than one polyp may be present.

What causes colon polyps and who gets them?

The cause of polyps is unknown. However, they are found in about 15% to 20% of the adult population. In general, they are more common in people over the age of 50, the age at which doctors suggest that patients get tested for colon polyps. If someone in your family has had colon polyps, earlier testing may be suggested. People with a history of polyps or colon cancer may be more likely to develop polyps. You also have more of a chance of getting polyps if you had ovarian or uterine cancer before the age of 50. The following are additional risk factors for polyps:

What are the symptoms of colon polyps?

Most colon polyps do not show any symptoms. Doctors may find them while running routine tests or trying to diagnose another condition. However, when symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Bleeding from the rectum (the last part of the digestive tract that enables stool to leave the body); blood may show up on underwear or toilet paper after a bowel movement
  • Not having a bowel movement for over a week
  • Having diarrhea for over a week
  • Blood in the stool, which could look black or have red streaks throughout
  • Mucus discharge
  • Abdominal pain (rare)