Polyps are abnormal growths of tissue. They can develop in any organ that has blood vessels. They are most often found in the colon, nose, or uterus, and rarely in the stomach.
Colon polyps are small growths on the inner colon or rectum lining. Colon polyps are not usually cancerous, however, some of them may turn into cancer. Once they are discovered, it is better to remove them. Some people just develop one polyp, while others may have a few. They tend to occur in people over the age of 60.
There are three types of colon polyps:
- Inflammatory – usually developing from ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
- Adenomatous – the most common type; only a small number can become cancerous, although all malignant polyps are adenomatous
- Serrated – can become cancerous, usually the large ones in the upper colon
Generally, the larger the polyp, the greater the risk of cancer.
Colon polyps often don’t show symptoms, so if you feel well, it doesn’t mean you don’t have polyps. When colon polyps do cause symptoms, these are:
- bleeding from the rectum
- blood in the stool; it looks black, or you can see like red streaks in the stool
- tiredness due to anemia and lack of iron – bleeding from colon polyps can lead to anemia and a lack of iron.
Other problems can also cause these symptoms. Therefore, contact your doctor right away.
The cause of colon polyps is not exact. Certain factors, such as age and family history are considered. Also, unregulated growth of cells can be a cause for polyp formation.
The risk factors for developing colon polyps are:
- Age – it affects mostly people over 50
- Inflammatory bowel disease, like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
- Family history
- Hereditary disorders, like Lynch syndrome, polyposis, etc.
- Type 2 diabetes
- Overweight and lack of exercise
- Smoking and alcohol intake
The only complication of colon polyps is if they become cancer. Therefore, it is better to remove them once discovered.
The prevention of colon polyps and especially colon cancer is regular screening. Lifestyle changes help in any condition; these are eating fruits and vegetables, low-fat diet, less alcohol, no smoking, and physical activity. Care should be paid if you have a family history.