- Colon polyp facts
- What are colon polyps?
- How common are colon polyps?
- Why are colon polyps important?
- Are all colon polyps the same?
- What are the symptoms and signs of colon polyps?
- How are colon polyps diagnosed?
- How are colon polyps treated?
- How is screening for colon polyps done?
- How should patients with colon polyps be followed?
- Are all colon cancers associated with polyps?
- Can colon polyps be prevented?
- How is genetic testing used in patients with colon polyps?
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Colon polyp facts
- Colon polyps are growths on the inner lining of the colon and are very common.
- Colon polyps are important because they may be, or may become malignant (cancerous). They also are important because based on their size, number, and histology, they can predict which patients are more likely to develop further polyps and colon cancer.
- Changes in the genetic material of cells lining the colon are the cause of polyp formation.
- There are different types of colon polyps with differing tendencies to become malignant and abilities to predict the development of more polyps and cancer. It is important to recognize families with members who have familial genetic conditions causing polyps because some of these conditions are associated with a very high incidence of colon cancer.
- Only a small proportion of polyps cause symptoms or signs. When they do, the symptoms and signs usually are the result of bleeding from the polyp.
- Colon polyps are diagnosed by endoscopic colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy, barium enema, and flexible sigmoidoscopy.
- Colon polyps are treated by endoscopic removal and occasionally by surgery.
- Follow-up surveillance of patients with colon polyps depends on the presence of a family history of cancer, the number of polyps that are found, the size of the polyps, and the polyps' histology, and can vary between three and ten years.
- Treatments to prevent colon polyps are being pursued actively.
What are colon polyps?
Colon polyps are growths that occur on the inner lining of the large intestine (colon) and protrude into the colon. They can vary in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters. Polyps form when the genetic material within cells lining the colon changes and becomes abnormal (mutates). Normally, the immature cells lining the colon are programmed to divide (multiply), mature, and then die in a very consistent and timely fashion. However, the genetic changes that occur in the lining cells prevents the cells from maturing, and the cells do not die. This leads to an accumulation of immature, genetically abnormal cells, which eventually results in the formation of polyps. The mutations may occur as a sporadic event after birth or they may be present from before birth.
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