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:
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The cause of colon polyps is unknown. It may be partly due to hereditary factors. There is a genetic condition called polyposis coli. It causes thousands of adenomatous polyps throughout the bowel.
Risk factors for colon polyps include:
Symptoms are often not present. Polyps are only found during an endoscopy or x-ray. If symptoms are present, they can include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
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 by colonoscopy.
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:
American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Colon polyps. American College of Pathologists website. Available at: http://www.cap.org/apps/docs/reference/myBiopsy/colon_adenomatous_polyps.pdf. Accessed February 8, 2013.
Kasper DL, Braunwald E, Fauci AS, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine . 16th ed. New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2005.
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 February 8, 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 February 8, 2013.
2/5/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Kim Y, Kim Y, Lee S. An association between colonic adenoma and abdominal obesity: a cross-sectional study. BMC Gastroenterol. 2009;9:4.
5/11/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Jacobs ET, Ahnen DJ, Ashbeck EL, et al. Association between body mass index and colorectal neoplasia at follow-up colonoscopy: a pooling study. Am J Epidemiol. 2009;169:657-666.
7/6/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Wise LA, Rosenberg L, Palmer JR, Adams-Campbell LL. Anthropometric risk factors for colorectal polyps in African-American women. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008;16:859-868. Epub 2008 Jan 24.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Mohei Abouzied, 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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