Colon Polyps - Topic Overview
What are colon polyps?
Colon polyps are growths in your
large intestine (colon) . The cause of most colon polyps is not known, but they
are common in adults.
Most colon polyps are not cancer. But some
growths can turn into
colon cancer. If a colon polyp is the kind that can
turn into cancer, it usually takes many years for that to happen.
People over 50 are more likely than younger people to get colon cancer.
Experts recommend routine colon cancer testing for everyone age 50 and older
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. Talk to your doctor about when you should be tested.
Finding and removing colon polyps can prevent colon cancer.
What are the symptoms?
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.
How are colon polyps diagnosed?
Most polyps are
found during tests for colon cancer. Experts recommend routine colon cancer
testing for everyone age 50 and older 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.
What increases my risk of getting colon polyps?