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Polyps of the Colon and Rectum

A polyp is a small accumulation of tissue that grows along the inside of the colon or rectum. Colon and rectal surgeons classify polyps into one of two types – hyperplastic polyps and adenomatous polyps. Hyperplastic polyps are benign and usually do not become cancerous, though the risk is still present. Adenomatous polyps, on the other hand, are much more likely to become malignant and occur in larger numbers. All colon and rectal polyps can grow for years, causing little more than some minor rectal bleeding. As they grow bigger, however, they may become malignant or lead to cramping and abdominal pain. Large benign polyps can secrete large amounts of mucous causing loose, frequent stools.

Did you know…

that fewer than 1 percent of all colon polyps will become cancerous? In fact, polyps can be found in approximately one-third of all adults over the age 60 and increase in prevalence with age. However, all colon polyps should be detected and removed, as doing so can prevent the development of colon cancer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if I have colon or rectal polyps?

The most effective way to confirm the presence of colon polyps is by way of a colonoscopy. Since most colon polyps do not cause noticeable symptoms, a colonoscopy is recommended as a preventative screening to diagnose benign polyps before they become malignant. Colonoscopies should be performed every 10 years in adults over age 50 who are not at increased risk of colon cancer or more frequently for those with a family history of cancer or polyps.

What happens if my surgeon finds colon polyps during a colonoscopy?

If polyps are found during your colonoscopy, they can nearly always be removed during the same procedure. Removal is quick, painless and does not cause any additional discomfort during the procedure. When the polyps are removed in their entirety, they cannot cause colon cancer in the future. In some cases, a polyp may require a secondary surgical procedure for removal, particularly if the polyp is very large and the margins are not well differentiated.

Will I need to have more frequent screenings if polyps are found and removed during my colonoscopy?

Depending on the type and number of polyps removed, you may need to undergo more frequent colonoscopies to look for additional growths in the future. This could mean returning for additional surveillance screenings annually or once every three to five years to ensure additional lesions have not developed.

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