Key Points about colorectal polyps

  • A colorectal polyp is a growth on the lining of the colon or rectum.
  • Colorectal polyps are usually noncancerous.
  • Colon polyps usually don’t have any symptoms but can include blood in the stool.
  • Colon polyps are usually found when a doctor performs a colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy or a barium enema.

Overview

A colorectal polyp is also called a colon polyp and is a growth on the lining of the colon — also called the large intestine. Colon polyps can also grow in the rectum.

Colon polyps are usually harmless but should be removed and biopsied by a specialist. Although colon polyps occur in at least 30% of U.S. adults who are 50 years or older they can also be found in children.

Colorectal polyps causes

Some people are born with colon polyps, while others can develop them in their lifetime. Although doctors don’t know the exact cause of colon polyps, some lifestyle factors may contribute, including:

  • Being age 50 or older
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Eating large amounts of red meat
  • High-fat diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of fiber in the diet
  • Smoking

Colorectal polyps risk factors

People who have inflammatory bowel disease and uncontrolled type 2 diabetes may have a higher risk for developing colon polyps.

In some people, genetic factors may be involved. Although less common, several inherited disorders put a person at a higher risk, including:

  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • Gardner syndrome
  • Juvenile polyposis
  • Lynch syndrome
  • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome

Colorectal polyps symptoms

Most people with colon polyps don’t have symptoms and polyps are found during routine tests. If the polyps do cause symptoms, you may experience:

  • Abdominal pain or cramps
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Blood in the stool
  • Change in bowel movements (constipation or diarrhea)
  • Nausea
  • Small stool size
  • Throwing up

Colorectal polyps diagnosis

Some large polyps in the rectum are diagnosed with a physical exam. Polyps in the colon are found using the following diagnostics:

  • Barium enema, an X-ray used to detect changes in the large intestine.
  • Colonoscopy, an exam using a flexible tube inserted into the rectum to detect changes in the large intestine.
  • Sigmoidoscopy, uses a flexible tube with a light on it to look inside your sigmoid colon.
  • Stool test for blood, also called a fecal occult blood test used to check stool samples for hidden blood.
  • Virtual colonoscopy, an X-ray exam of the colon using low dose computed tomography (CT). This exam is less invasive than a colonoscopy.

Colorectal polyps treatment

If colorectal polyps are identified during a colonoscopy, they are removed during the procedure. They are also removed during a sigmoidoscopy procedure. Often your doctor will send the polyp to a lab for a biopsy to determine the type of growth.

Sometimes if the polyp is very large, you may need surgery to have it removed.

When to seek care

Regular colonoscopy is important if you are over the age of 45, especially if you have a family history of colon cancer or other risk factors. This screening is a helpful tool to discover and treat colorectal polyps.

If you experience any symptoms, talk to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a gastroenterologist for more specialized treatment.