Colon Polyps are abnormal tissue growths that occur on the inner lining of the colon. Polyps can vary in size from less than a quarter of an inch to several inches in diameter. Their cause is unknown, but some experts believe a high-fat, low-fiber diet can contribute to the likelihood of developing polyps. A family history of colon polyps or colon cancer may also be a risk factor.
Polyps Contain Many Types of Tissue
There are basically four types of polyps that commonly occur within the colon:
Most often found in patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Often called “pseudopolyps” (false polyps), they are not true polyps, but just a reaction to chronic inflammation of the colon wall. They are not the type that turns to cancer. They are usually biopsied to verify type
A common type of polyp which is usually very small and found in the rectum. They are considered to be low risk for cancer.
Tubular Adenoma or Adenomatous Polyp
This is the most common type of polyp and the one referred to most often when a doctor speaks of colon polyps. About 70 percent of polyps removed are of this type. Adenomas carry a definite cancer risk which rises as the polyp grows larger. Adenomatous polyps usually cause no symptoms, but if detected early they can be removed during colonoscopy before any cancer cells form. The good news is that polyps grow slowly and may take years to turn into cancer. Patients with a history of adenomatous polyps must be periodically reexamined.
Villous Adenoma or Tubulovillous Adenoma
About 15 percent of polyps removed are of this type. This is a much more serious type of polyp that has a very high cancer risk as it grows larger. Larger sessile villous adenomas may require surgery for complete removal. Follow up depends on size and completeness of removal.
Frequently Asked Questions about Colon Polyps
Q: What are the risks of developing polyps?
A: The biggest risk factor for developing polyps is being older than 50. A family history of Colon Polyps or colon cancer also increases the risk of polyps. If you have had polyps or colon cancer, you are at greater risk of developing new polyps than someone who has not.
Q: What symptoms do polyps cause?
A. Usually none. Larger ones can cause blood in the stool.
Q: So how do I know if I have them?
A: The best way to detect polyps is by screening individuals with no symptoms. There are several screening tests available, but the most accurate method is by colonoscopy, a thin, flexible, lighted scope that lets the physician visually inspect the colon.
Q: What if I do have them?
A: They can be removed during the colonoscopy. Then they are examined under a microscope to determine what type they are and whether they are cancerous.
Q: Are there risks to polyp removal?
A: Polyp removal (or polypectomy) during a colonoscopy is a routine outpatient procedure. Possible but uncommon complications include bleeding from the removal site and perforation (a hole) in the colon, which only occurs approximately one in 1,000 procedures. Bleeding from the polypectomy site can be immediate or delayed for several days, but persistent bleeding can almost always be stopped by treatment during the procedure. Perforations usually require surgery to repair.
This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.