Colon polyps are growths in your large intestine (colon). Although polyps are common in adults, it is not known what causes them. While most colon polyps are non-cancerous, some can become cancerous over time. As a result, finding and removing polyps is recommended to prevent colon cancer. Read more about colon cancer, risk factors, colonoscopies and more.
Patients with colon polyps usually don't experience any symptoms. , so you can have them and not know it until a routine screening for colon cancer (colonoscopy) discovers them. Sometimes large polyps can cause bleeding or changes in your bowel habits. You should report prolonged diarrhea, constipation or changes in frequency of bathroom use to your doctor.
Because most polyps are found during routine tests, experts recommend routine colonoscopy for everyone age 50 and older who has a normal risk for colon cancer. People with a higher risk, such as African Americans and people with a strong family history should be tested sooner.
Screenings for polyps and colon cancer include:
- Computed tomographic colonography (CTC). Also called a virtual colonoscopy, a computer and X-rays take detailed pictures of the colon.
- Stool tests. Fecal occult blood test (FOBT), fecal immunochemical test (FIT) and stool DNA test (sDNA) check for markers of cancer.
Risk factors for colon polyps include:
- Adults age 50 or older
- Family history
- Genetics—people with a certain inherited gene are much more likely than others to grow the kind of polyps that turn into colon cancer
Doctors usually remove polyps to prevent them from turning into colon cancer. You may need to have surgery if you have a large polyp, but most polyps can be easily removed during a colonoscopy.Talk to your doctor about how often you need to be screened because colon polyps can grow back. If you have had polyps removed, it is important to have follow-up testing to look for more.