Colon Polyps - Topic Overview
Colon polyps are growths in your
large intestine (colon) . The cause of most colon polyps is not known, but they
are common in adults.
Over time, some polyps can turn into colon cancer. It usually takes many years for that to happen.
You can have colon polyps
and not know it, because they usually don't cause symptoms. They are usually
found during routine screening tests for colon cancer. A screening test looks
for signs of a disease when there are no symptoms.
If polyps get
large, they can cause symptoms. You may have bleeding from your rectum or a
change in your bowel habits. A change in bowel habits includes diarrhea,
constipation, going to the bathroom more often or less often than usual, or a
change in the way your stool looks.
Most polyps are
found during tests for colon cancer. Experts recommend routine colon cancer
testing for everyone between the ages of 50 and 75 who has a normal risk for colon cancer.
People with a higher risk, such as African Americans and people with a strong
family history of colon cancer, may need to be tested sooner. The tests for colon
- Stool tests. In a fecal occult blood test
(FOBT), a fecal immunochemical test (FIT), and a stool DNA test (sDNA), stool
samples are checked for signs of cancer.
- Colonoscopy. In this test, the doctor inserts a small
viewing tube all the way into your colon and looks for polyps. The doctor can
also take out any polyps he or she finds.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy. This test is like a
colonoscopy, except that the viewing tube is shorter so the doctor can only
look at the last part of your colon. Doctors can remove polyps during this
- Computed tomographic colonography (CTC). This test is also
called a virtual colonoscopy. A computer and X-rays make a detailed picture of
the colon to help the doctor look for polyps.
Doctors often recommend colonoscopy, because it lets them
look at the whole colon and remove any polyps they find. If polyps are found
during another type of test, you may still need colonoscopy so the doctor can
remove the polyps.
You are more likely to have colon polyps if:
- You are over 50.
- Colon polyps or colon cancer runs
in your family.
- You inherited a certain gene that causes you to
develop polyps. People with this gene are much more likely than others to get
the kind of polyps that turn into colon cancer.
Doctors usually remove colon
polyps, because some of them can turn into colon cancer. Most polyps are removed
during a colonoscopy. You may need to have surgery if you have a large
After you have had polyps, you have a higher chance of developing new polyps. If you have had polyps removed,
it is important to have follow-up testing to look for more polyps. Talk to your
doctor about how often you need to be tested.