colon polyps do not cause any problems, but a sample
of polyp tissue (called a
biopsy) can be removed during screening if you have a
flexible sigmoidoscopy or
colonoscopy. The tissue is examined to find out if it
is the kind of tissue that could become cancer.
adenomatous polyps are found during an exam with
flexible sigmoidoscopy, a colonoscopy will be done to look for and remove any
polyps in the rest of the colon.
The bigger a
colon polyp is, especially if it is larger than
1 cm (0.4 in.), the more likely
it is that the polyp will be adenomatous or contain cancer cells and need to be
In some cases, very small polyps [5 mm (0.2 in.) or less] may not be removed.
Some studies have concluded that even if they contain adenomatous tissue, these
polyps take so many years to grow that they pose little risk of cancer, except
in people who have inherited (familial) polyp syndromes.1
Most colon polyps are not likely to develop
into cancer. If only
hyperplastic polyps are found during your flexible
sigmoidoscopy, you likely do not need to have a colonoscopy. These polyps do
not become cancerous. In this case you can continue your regular screenings,
unless you are at an
increased risk for colon cancer because of a family
history of colon cancer or an inherited polyp syndrome.
Risks of removing polyps during colonoscopy
Complications from colonoscopy are rare. There is a slight risk
- Puncturing the colon (less than 1 in 1,000)
or causing severe bleeding by damaging the wall of the colon (less than 3 in
- Bleeding caused by removing a
- Complications from sedatives given during the
Regular screenings for
colon polyps are the best way to prevent polyps from
developing into colon cancer.
Most colon polyps can be identified and removed during a
If you have had one or more adenomatous polyps
removed, you probably need regular follow-up colonoscopy exams every 3 to 5
years. Talk with your doctor about the follow-up schedule that he or she thinks
is best for you.
Treatment if the condition gets worse
sometimes needed for large
colon polyps that have a broad area of attachment
(sessile polyps ) to the colon wall. These large polyps sometimes cannot be
removed safely during a colonoscopy and may be more likely to develop into
If cancer is found when the colon polyps are examined, you
will begin treatment for
colorectal cancer. For more information, see the topic