Colon Polyps Colorectal Polyps

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

A colorectal polyp is an abnormal growth of tissue on the inside lining of thecolon or rectum.

What is going on in the body?

Colorectal polyps are very common. They affect about 25% of adults who are 50 years of age and older. They are most often benign, or noncancerous. However, polyps cansometimes develop into colorectal cancer.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

The exact cause of polyps is not well understood. Sometimes polyps are genetic.Polyps are more common as a person gets older. Diets high in fat and low infiberare thought to play a role in causing polyps. Alcohol use, cigarettesmoking, and obesity may also increase the risk of developingpolyps.

Symptoms & Signs

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?

Most often, polyps cause no symptoms at all. They are found when a healthcareprovider examines the colon. Rarely, polyps can cause blood in the stools orabdominal distress.

Diagnosis & Tests

How is the condition diagnosed?

Colorectal polyps can be seen only with special tests because polyps are hiddenwithin the body. A barium enema is a special X-ray test that can detectpolyps.

Starting at the age of 40, people should have yearly digital rectal exams and stooltesting for occult blood. Annual fecal occult blood tests allow early detectionof colorectal polyps. The polyps can then be removed before they becomecolorectal cancer.

Beginning at the age of 50, a flexible sigmoidoscopy should be done every 3 to 5 years. A sigmoidoscopy is aprocedure that allows a healthcare professional to look into the rectum andsigmoid colon through a flexible scope.

A colonoscopy may also be used to diagnose colorectal polyps. Like asigmoidoscopy, this procedure allows a healthcare professional to look into therectum and sigmoid colon through a flexible scope. The difference between theprocedures is that colonoscopy goes further or deeper into the bowels thansigmoidoscopy.

Prevention & Expectations

What can be done to prevent the condition?

Currently, nothing has been shown to definitely reduce the riskof polyps. Diets high in fiber, folic acid and calcium, and low in fat may help toreduce the risk. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications may also reducethe risk of developing colorectal polyps.

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

Colorectal polyps sometimes become colorectal cancer. Occasionally, apolyp actually is a small, early cancer.

What are the risks to others?

Colorectal polyps are not contagious and pose no risk to others.

Treatment & Monitoring

What are the treatments for the condition?

When polyps are seen with a barium enema X-ray test, the person may needa sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. During these procedures, thehealthcare provider can sometimes remove or destroy polyps through the tube.Otherwise, the provider may cut off a small piece of the polyp for a biopsy to belooked at under a microscope.

In some cases, a portion of the colon is removedsurgically, with a colostomy. This is usually done if the polyp is large,or if the biopsy looks suspicious under the microscope.

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy involve a risk of tearing a hole in the bowel,bleeding, and infection. This risk is increased when biopsies are taken. Anysurgery involves a risk of infection, bleeding, and allergic reaction toanesthesia.

What happens after treatment for the condition?

After a polyp is treated, the person can generally go back to his or her normalactivities. The healthcare provider will recommend a follow-up plan based onthe type of polyps a person has.

How is the condition monitored?

All persons are advised to have regular screening for colorectal polyps andcolorectalcancer after the age of 50. Those with polyps will need more frequentfuture screenings with either colonoscopy or barium enema.

Article type: xmedgeneral