A colon polyp is a growth on the surface of the large intestine or colon. While some colon polyps are benign, meaning they are not cancer, other types of polyps may already be cancer or can become cancer later.
While anyone can get colon polyps, certain people are more likely to get them than others. You have a greater chance of getting polyps if you are 50 years of age or older, have had polyps before, if someone in your family has had polyps, or if someone in your family has had colon cancer.
You may also be more likely to develop colon polyps if you eat a lot of fatty foods, smoke, drink alcohol, are overweight, or don’t exercise.
A colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy are the tests used to check for colon polyps. If polyps are found, the doctor will remove them during the procedure in most cases. The polyps are then tested for cancer.
Below is a drawing of a colon polyp being removed by a colonoscopy.
What causes colon polyps?
In rare cases, colon polyps can be the result of a genetic mutation. More common risk factors for colon polyps include being age 50 or older, using alcohol or tobacco, having uncontrolled type 2 diabetes, being of African American race, struggling from an inflammatory bowel condition like ulcerative colitis, obesity, lack of exercise, and having a family history of colon polyps.
Are colon polyps dangerous?
It is important to seek treatment for a colon polyp, because if untreated, they can become cancerous. Removing them early reduces the risk of cancer.
How are colon polyps treated?
Your doctor will likely remove any colon polyps detected during a bowel exam. This can be done through a polypectomy, which involves removing the polyp with forceps or a wire loop. If a polyp is too large for this procedure, it may be removed laparoscopically, by inserting an instrument into the bowel. In rare cases, the entire colon and rectum may need to be removed surgically.
- “I noticed that my stool appeared black, and I had severe stomach cramps.”
- “I had a sudden change in bathroom habits, as I became constipated, and the constipation lasted for several weeks.”
- “I noticed blood in my stool, combined with abdominal pain and persistent diarrhea.”