What are Colorectal Polyps?
Colorectal polyps, sometimes referred to as colon polyps, are a common occurrence in the United States. The term “colorectal” refers to the colon and the rectum. Several conditions that affect the colon tend to affect the rectum which is why they are sometimes mentioned together. A colorectal polyp is a polyp that occurs in either the colon or the rectum. A colon, or rectal polyp is a growth made up of a clump of cells on the lining of your colon or rectum.
Polyps by themselves are mostly harmless and often do not cause symptoms, however, colon polyps and rectal polyps need to be removed because they can eventually become cancerous.
What Causes Colorectal Polyps?
Colorectal polyps form when cells grow or divide more than they should. The medical community is still unsure as to why this happens but there are correlations and risk factors that are associated with those who have colon polyps or rectal polyps.
Risk factors for colon polyps and rectal polyps include:
- Over the age of 50
- Have a history or family history of colon polyps or rectal polyps in the past
- Crohn’s Disease
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Type 2 diabetes
- Genetic history
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- “Typical Western diet” – high fat, low fiber
Hereditary genetic conditions can raise your risk of having colon polyps and rectal polyps. Those conditions include:
- Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
- Lynch syndrome
- Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
- Gardner’s syndrome
- Serrated polyposis syndrome
- MYH-associated polyposis (MAP)
What are the Symptoms of Colorectal Polyps?
Many cases of colon polyps or rectal polyps are not manifested in symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms, some of the most common symptoms of colorectal polyps include:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody stool
- Shortness of breath
- Diarrhea (lasting longer than a week)
- Iron deficiency anemia
If you experience any combination of the above symptoms, are age 50 or older, or have a family history of colon cancer/colorectal polyps, contact a gastroenterologist today about a colon cancer screening.
What Does it Mean if a Physician Finds Polyps During a Colonoscopy?
It is common to find polyps during a colonoscopy, and many times, polyps are benign (not cancerous). Polyps found during a colonoscopy will often be removed during your colonoscopy (polypectomy), and tested for cancer. If your colorectal polyps are found not-cancerous, then your physician will likely encourage regular screening for colon cancer going forward. If your polyp is found to be malignant (cancerous), you and your physician will discuss the appropriate steps moving forward.
What are the Treatments for Colorectal Polyps?
The main way to treat colorectal polyps is by removing them. During a colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy, polyps in your colon and rectum can be removed in a procedure called a polypectomy. In extreme situations, part or all of your colon or rectum may need to be removed.
You can help reduce your risk of colorectal polyps by:
- Not smoking
- Avoiding alcohol
- Eating more fruits and vegetables
- Eat less fatty foods
- Exercise every day
- Lose weight if overweight