What is a Colon Polyp and how common are they?

Colon polyps are noncancerous tumors or neoplasms involving or occurring in the lining of the bowel. They can occur in several different locations throughout the gastrointestinal tract, but most commonly occur in the colon. The size of each colon polyp varies from several inches in diameter to less than one-fourth of an inch.

Visually they look like small bumps that grow from the lining of the colon. Occasionally they may look like mushrooms, or can even be flat. Polyps are typically scattered throughout different parts of the colon, and some can contain small areas of cancer although most of them do not.

There are two common types of colon polyps. Hyperplastic polyps and adenomas. Hyperplastic polyps are not risk factors for cancer. However, adenomas are considered to be the origin for almost all colon cancers. Although most adenomas will never turn into cancer, examination of the tissue under a microscope is recommended. These examinations are the best way to differentiate between hyperplastic and adenomatous polyps. It is impossible to tell which colon polyps may develop into cancer, but the largest ones are at more risk or may already contain cancerous cells.

The rarity of polyps depends greatly on age. In adults, polyps are extremely common, and the older we get, the more frequent they become. However, in young adults, it is very rare to see them. After the age of sixty, with no known risk factors, about 25% of adults will have polyps.

What causes colon polyps?

We are unsure of what exactly causes colon polyps. However, some experts believe diet is a contributing factor. A diet in high-fat and low-fiber can cause a predisposition to polyp formations. Two of the most well-known contributors are genetic disposition and age. People over the age of fifty have the most risk of colon polyps. Family history, colon cancer, history of previous polyps, and rare polyp syndromes also increase the danger of developing or redeveloping polyps, even in younger patients.

What are the symptoms of having colon polyps?

Unfortunately, colon polyps usually have no associated symptoms. Larger polyps will sometimes cause blood to be present in stool samples, but it is likely they will still cause no symptoms. There are several methods for detecting colon polyps. However, the best method is screening someone with no symptoms. Testing stool samples for blood, performing a sigmoidoscopy, barium enemas, and CT colonography are all common tests used to find and diagnose colon polyps. The colonoscopy, however, is the most practical and accurate way to detect polyps and is recommended by most physicians due to it’s accuracy and the ability to remove all of the polyps found during the screening procedure.

How do you treat colon polyps?

The treatment for colon polyps is simply the removal of any and all polyps. When polyps are found during a colonoscopy, most of them can be completely removed from the colon during the procedure. There are various removal techniques practiced, but most of them include removing them with a wire loop biopsy or burning the base with an electrical current. The colon’s inner lining is not sensitive to burning or cutting causing little or no discomfort through this process. Removed polyps are examined under a microscope to determine the type and detect if there is cancer present. Endoscopic tattooing is sometimes used to mark a large or unusual looking polyp that may need surgical management. Small amounts of sterile ink or carbon black are injected into the colon wall. However because your physician can’t be sure of tissue type or whether a polyp is cancerous, all polyps will try to be removed during the procedure.

When dealing with colon polyps multiple colonoscopies may be necessary. You physician will determine when another colonoscopy will be needed depending on several determining factors. The number and size of polyps removed, the tissue types, and your doctor’s ability to see the surface of the colon all play a role in future procedures. If the entire colon was easily visible and small polyps were removed, your doctors may recommend a repeat colonoscopy from anywhere between three to five years. However, if the colon polyps were large and flat, it could be as little as a few months before another procedure is scheduled to ensure all polyps are removed and there is no cancer.

What are the risks of having colon polyps removed?

At TransSouth Health Care we understand your concern over haveing an invasive procedure performed, and it is our goal to assure you that you are in fully capable hands and that the risks are minimum. Removing colon polyps during a colonoscopy is a routine outpatient procedure, and complications are uncommon. Bleeding from the site and perforation of the colon are both complications that could occur.

Bleeding from the site could be immediate or take several days, however, persistent bleeding is almost always stopped during the colonoscopy. Although perforations are very rare, if one does occur it may need surgery to repair.