Colon polyps are growths on the lining of the colon or rectum. The colon and the rectum are parts of the large intestine. It is all part of the digestive system.
The two most common kinds of polyp are:
- Adenomatous polyps—which are pre-cancerous and can become larger over time and may develop into cancer
- Hyperplastic polyps—do not increase in size and only rarely become cancerous
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The cause of most colon polyps is unknown. It may be partly due to hereditary factors.
There are certain genetic conditions, such as
familial adenomatous polyposis
and Peutz–Jeghers syndrome, which cause many polyps to form.
Colon polyps are more common in people over 50 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of colon polyps include:
Symptoms are often not present. Polyps are often found during an
or x-ray. If symptoms are present, they can include:
- Rectal bleeding
constipation, and/or bloating that lasts over a period of time
- Abdominal pain or cramping, rarely
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
Images of your internal body structures may be done with a
Depending on the size of the polyp, it may be removed. Large polyps are at high risk for becoming cancerous. They should be removed. Usually, polyps can be removed during
If the polyps are very large, you may need to have surgery to have them removed. Your doctor may send the tissue from the removed polyps to be tested for cancer.
It’s not clear how polyps can be prevented. However, the following guidelines can help you stay healthy and may help prevent not only polyps but also colon cancer:
high fiber diet
with plenty of
fruits, vegetables, and
- Reduce the amount of animal fat in your diet. This occurs in beef and other meat products, as well as full-fat dairy products.
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
If you smoke, ask your doctor how to
- See your doctor for regular screenings after the age of 50.
- More frequent screenings may be needed if polyps are found.
Colon polyps. American College of Pathologists website. Available at:
http://www.cap.org/apps/docs/reference/myBiopsy/colon_adenomatous_polyps.pdf. Accessed July 12, 2013.
Polyps of the colon and rectum. American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons website. Available at:
http://www.fascrs.org/patients/conditions/polyps_of_the_colon_and_rectum. Accessed July 12, 2013.
What I need to know about colon polyps. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse website. Available at:
http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/colonpolyps_ez. Updated April 30, 2012. Accessed July 12, 2013.
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Last reviewed June 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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