Colon Polyps - Topic Overview

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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.

Over time, some polyps can turn into colon cancer. It usually takes many years for that to happen.

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 between the ages of 50 and 75 who has a normal risk for colon cancer. People with a higher risk, such as those with a strong family history of colon cancer, may need to be tested sooner. The tests for colon cancer are:

Less common screening tests include the stool DNA test (sDNA) and computed tomographic colonography (CTC).

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.

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What increases your risk of getting colon 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.

How are they treated?

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 polyp.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about colon polyps:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

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