Colon Polyps

What are colon polyps?
Colon polyps are growths which form over time on the inner wall of the colon. They can be either raised or flat, single or multiple, and large or small. Colon polyps are usually harmless unless they become cancerous.

Are colon polyps cancerous?
Colon polyps are not malignant, but they have a potential to turn into a cancerous polyp. It is often not possible to tell if a polyp has become malignant by its appearance although certain visual features make malignancy more likely. Flat polyps are usually more difficult to detect and to remove. Special staining techniques have been developed to help detect flat polyps better. Fortunately most polyps can be safely removed during a colonoscopy examination.

Who is likely to get colon polyps?
Anyone can get colon polyps, but people are more likely to have polyps if:
  • They are 50 years of age or older.
  • They have had polyps before.
  • Someone in their family has had polyps.
  • Someone in their family has had colon cancer.
What are the symptoms of colon polyps?
Colon polyps almost always do not cause any symptoms, unless thy are in a very advanced stage. Abnormally large polyps may cause physical symptoms such as rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, or irregular bowel habits such as constipation or narrowed stools.

How are colon polyps diagnosed?
Colon polyps are diagnosed if they are found during one of these procedures:
    A colonoscopy involves the use of a flexible tube, with a camera Colonoscopy involves use of a flexible tube with a camera attached that is fed through the anus and maneuvered thorough the entire colon. Images are displayed on a screen allowing the doctor to view the colon and remove any colon polyps that are found along the way with a special tool that is passed through the tube.

    A sigmoidoscopy is similar to a colonoscopy but only involves the rectum and the end portions of the large intestine. The same flexible tube with camera attached is used during the procedure. Any colon polyps that are found can be removed with a special tool which is passed through the tube. A colonoscopy, however, is the more recommended option as it will check the whole colon as opposed to just a portion of it.

    Barium Enema
    A barium enema involves the use of barium and x-rays. The radiologist will gently instill liquid barium into the large intestine via the rectum, which will allow it to show as white when x-rays are taken. Colon polyps are easy to detect in this scenario, as they will appear dark.

    CT Virtual Colonoscop
    A CT scan can be used to perform a special non-invasive form of colonoscopy, called a "virtual colonoscopy". This procedure allows the physician to obtain images of the large intestine that are comparable to what is seen by the physician during regular colonoscopy. The major disadvantage of a CT generated virtual colonoscopy is that it does not allow removal of any polyps. Any such abnormality would obligate the physician to also order a regular colonoscopy to remove the abnormality. The cleansing preparation for virtual colonoscopy is similar to traditional colonoscopy.
How are colon polyps treated?
Colon polyps are treated by simply removing them from the colon during a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy examination. The polyp specimens are then tested in a pathology laboratory for presence of any cancer. If you have any colon polyps removed, then it is important to undergo routine testing to remove any new polyps in the future.

Dr. Khorrami has been in practice since 1996 as a double-board certified gastroenterologist, has experienced a variety of patient cases, and is well trained to solve your digestive problems. Get in touch to learn about colon polyps and what you can do to find and remove them.

Source contains material from the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC).


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About Dr. Khorrami

Dr. Payman Khorrami is a UCLA graduate, has been in practice since 1996, and is double board certified. Undergraduate Education at University of California, Berkeley, Medical School at University of California, San Francisco, Internal Medicine Training at University of California, San Diego Read Full Bio