What is a polyp?
A polyp is a growth that springs from the outermost lining of hollow organs. They can occur anywhere in the colon (large intestine). Up to 40 percent of people older than 60 have at least one colon polyp.
What are the types of colon polyps?
There are two major types of colon polyps:
- Hyperplastic Polyp – Almost never cancerous
- Adenoma Polyp– More than 90 percent of adenomas do not become cancerous, but the remaining 10 percent can turn into cancer.
- Tubular Adenomas – The most common polyp, and the least likely to become cancer. They look like drinking straws with a round cap on one end.
- Villious Adenomas – resemble a tiny cauliflower and are most likely to turn into cancer
- Tubuvillious Adenomas – a cross between Tubular and Villious Adenomas and have some cancer threat
By looking at a polyp, the doctor cannot tell whether it is a dangerous form; it must be looked at with a microscope. Polyps can vary in size. Larger adenoma polyps raise the chance of cancer and the more number of polyps, the bigger the chance of cancer.
What are the symptoms of colon polyps?
Most colon polyps cause no symptoms. However, a rare few may cause a change in bowel habits or rectal bleeding. Notify your doctor if you notice any blood on the toilet paper, in the toilet water or in your stool or changes in your bowel movements.
What are the causes/prevention of colon polyps?
We do not know the cause of colon polyps. Some studies suggest low fiber, high fat diets and genetics may contribute to polyps forming. Generally, the average polyp takes 3 to 7 years to grow. The key to early detection of polyps is to have a screening colonoscopy. Everyone by the age of 50 should have a screening exam. People with a family history of colon cancer should get screened earlier. Depending on the type, number and size of polyp(s) and your family history, your doctor will recommend when your next colonoscopy is necessary. Routinely, if no adenoma polyps are found and there is no family history, the next colonoscopy can wait 5 years. Those with precancerous types of polyps may have their next colonoscopy earlier (anywhere from 6 months to 5 years).