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:
- Adenomatous polyps—which are precancerous and can become larger over time and may develop into cancer
- Hyperplastic polyps—do not increase in size and only rarely become cancerous
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:
- Eat a high fiber diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Reduce the amount of animal fat in your diet. This occurs in beef and other meat products, as well as full-fat dairy products.
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- If you smoke, ask your doctor how to quit.
- See your doctor for regular screenings after the age of 50.
- More frequent screenings may be needed if polyps are found, or if you have a apersonal or family history.
- Reviewer: Daus Mahnke, MD
- Review Date: 06/2016 -
- Update Date: 05/11/2013 -