A colon polyp is a clump of cells that forms on the lining of the colon.
There are two main categories of polyps, non-neoplastic and neoplastic. Non-neoplastic polyps include hyperplastic polyps, inflammatory polyps and hamartomatous polyps. In general, the larger a polyp, the greater the risk of cancer, especially with neoplastic polyps.
Colon polyps often cause no symptoms. You might not know you have a polyp until your doctor finds it during an examination of your bowel.
Sometimes, if the polyp is large enough or has an ulcerated surface, they can present with rectal bleeding, cange in stool color, change in bowel habits or Iron deficiency anemia.
Factors that may contribute to the formation of colon polyps or cancer include:
Age, most with colon polyps are 50 or older.
Inflammatory intestinal conditions, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Family history. You’re more likely to develop colon polyps or cancer if you have a parent, sibling or child with them. If many family members have them, your risk is even greater. In some people, this connection isn’t hereditary.
Tobacco and alcohol use.
Obesity and lack of exercise.
Rarely, people inherit genetic mutations that cause colon polyps to form. If you have one of these genetic mutations, you are at much higher risk of developing colorectal cancer. Screening and early detection can help prevent the development or spread of these cancers. These multiple polyps syndromes include FAP, HNPCC and Peutz-Jaaegers Syndrome
You can greatly reduce your risk of colon polyps and colorectal cancer by having regular screenings.
Individuals with no personal or family history of colon cancer should get screening by colonoscopy once every 10 years starting at age 50 years. If your endoscopist discovers that you have polyps, and removes them, then the interval for your next colonoscopy is shortened to 5 years.
Consider your options if you’re at high risk. If you have a family history of colon polyps, consider having genetic counseling. If you’ve been diagnosed with a hereditary disorder that causes colon polyps, you’ll need regular colonoscopies starting in young adulthood.