Polyps are removed during screening if you have a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. The polyp is examined to find out if it is the kind that could become cancer.
If 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.
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.
A sessile polyp doesn't have a stalk. It is mostly a flat growth. Like other colon polyps, it grows on the inside wall of the colon. Sessile polyps can turn into cancer. Like other polyps, they are removed if found during sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.
Risks of removing polyps during colonoscopy
Complications from colonoscopy are rare. There is a slight risk of:
- Puncturing the colon (less than 1 in 1,000) or causing severe bleeding by damaging the wall of the colon (less than 3 in 1,000).
- Bleeding caused by removing a polyp.
- Complications from sedatives given during the procedure.
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 colonoscopy.
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
Surgery is 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 cancer.
If cancer is found when the colon polyps are examined, you will begin treatment for colorectal cancer. For more information, see the topic Colorectal Cancer.