A colorectal polyp is a usually noncancerous growth that forms on of the lining of the colon or rectum, most commonly as people age. Some types of polyps may develop into cancer over time, however; those polyps that are larger than one centimeter have a greater risk of doing so.
Polyps may also be associated with some inherited disorders, including:
- Familial adenomatous polyposis
- Gardner syndrome
- Juvenile polyposis
- Lynch syndrome (HNPCC)
- Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
To reduce the risk of developing polyps, physicians recommend:
- Eating a diet low in fat and high in fruits, vegetables and fiber
- Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake
- Maintaining a normal body weight
Colonoscopies are recommended as a way to prevent colon cancer; when performed regularly (usually suggested for people over 50, though those with a family history of colon cancer or colon polyps may need to be screened earlier) they can aid in diagnosing colon cancer at an early and treatable stage.
Other tests that show polyps include:
- Rectal examination
- Barium enema
- Virtual colonoscopy
Polyps usually have no symptoms, but occasionally produce:
- Abdominal pain (rare)
- Bloody stools
- Fatigue associated with anemia
- Rectal bleeding
In most cases, the polyps may be removed at the same time a colonoscopy is performed, and follow-up colonoscopies should be performed within three to five years to check for reoccurrence.
On rare occasions, for polyps with a high potential of becoming cancerous, the health care provider may recommend a colectomy, or removal of a part of the colon.