Colon polyps are growths on the lining of the colon or rectum. The colon and the rectum are parts of the large intestine, which are parts of the digestive system.
The 2 most common kinds of polyps are:
The cause of most colon polyps is unknown. It may be partly due to hereditary factors.
There are certain genetic conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis and Peutz–Jeghers syndrome, which cause many polyps to form.
Colon polyps are more common in people over 50 years old. Other factors that may increase your chance of colon polyps include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:
Images of your internal body structures may be done with a barium enema or an abdominal x-ray.
Depending on the size of the polyp, it may be removed. Large polyps are at high risk for becoming cancerous. They should be removed. Usually, polyps can be removed during colonoscopy.
If the polyps are very large, you may need to have surgery to have them removed. Your doctor may send the tissue from the removed polyps to be tested for cancer.
It’s not clear how polyps can be prevented. However, the following guidelines can help you stay healthy and may help prevent not only polyps, but also colon cancer:
American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
Colon polyps. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/colon-polyps/Pages/overview.aspx. Updated April 30, 2012. Accessed July 12, 2013.
Colonoscopy. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114112/Colonoscopy. Updated August 12, 2016. Accessed September 23, 2016.
Colorectal cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113642/Colorectal-cancer. Updated August 18, 2016. Accessed September 23, 2016.
Polyps of the colon and rectum. American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.fascrs.org/patients/disease-condition/polyps-colon-and-rectum. Accessed July 12, 2013.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Daus Mahnke, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.