A colon polyp is a growth on the inner lining of the colon (large intestine) or rectum. A polyp can have a variety of shapes and be flat, slightly raised (called sessile) or on a stalk (called pedunculated). There are different microscopic types of polyps (which require a microscope to determine), and the adenomas or sessile serrated polyps can eventually grow over time and become cancer. Undergoing colorectal cancer screening and removal of polyps can decrease the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Polyps are found in about 30% of the adult population over the age of 45-50. Men and women of all ethnicities are at risk of colon polyps and colon cancer.
A polyp is the result of genetic changes in the cells of the colon lining that affect the normal cell life cycle. Many factors can increase the risk or rate of these changes. Factors are related to your diet, lifestyle, older age, gender and genetics or hereditary issues. Important lifestyle factors predisposing to colorectal polyps and cancer (making you more liable to get these conditions) include:
Other factors include:
Most colon polyps and early, curable colorectal cancer do not have any symptoms, which is why screening is recommended. However, when symptoms do occur, they may include:
The above symptoms should be evaluated to ensure that there are no polyps or colorectal cancer.
A doctor can find colon polyps in several different ways, including:
If any of the last tests are abnormal, a colonoscopy should be done to check for polyps and remove them.
When a colon polyp is found, your doctor will remove it and test it in the laboratory to see what microscopic type it is. Your doctor will determine when you should have a repeat screening test based on the number, size and microscopic analysis of polyps, in addition to your other risk factors.
You may be able to reduce the risk of developing polyps if you:
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 02/04/2020