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Colorectal Polyps


What are colorectal polyps?

Colorectal polyps are small growths of tissue in the lining of the colon and rectum. Most polyps are hyperplastic polyps and are usually benign (noncancerous). Certain types of polyps, called adenomatous polyps, may turn into cancer.

What increases my risk of colorectal polyps?

The exact cause of colorectal polyps is unknown. The following may increase your risk:

  • Older age
  • A diet of foods high in fat and low in fiber
  • Family history of polyps
  • Intestinal diseases, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
  • An unhealthy lifestyle, such as physical inactivity, smoking, or drinking alcohol
  • Obesity

What are the signs and symptoms of colorectal polyps?

  • Blood in your bowel movement or bleeding from the rectum
  • Change in bowel movement habits, such as diarrhea and constipation
  • Abdominal pain

How are colorectal polyps diagnosed?

You should have fecal blood screening once a year for colorectal disease if you are over 50 years old. You should be screened earlier if you have an intestinal disease or a family history of polyps or colorectal cancer. During this screening, a sample of your bowel movement is checked for blood, which may be an early sign of colorectal polyps or cancer. You may also need any of the following tests:

  • Digital rectal exam: Your healthcare provider will examine your anus and use a finger to check your rectum for polyps.
  • Barium enema: A barium enema is an x-ray of the colon. A tube is put into your anus, and a liquid called barium is put through the tube. Barium is used so that healthcare providers can see your colon better on the x-ray film.
  • Virtual colonoscopy: This is a CT scan that takes pictures of the inside of your colon and rectum. A small, flexible tube is put into your rectum and air or carbon dioxide (gas) is used to expand your colon. This lets healthcare providers clearly see your colon and any polyps on a monitor.
  • Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy: These procedures help your healthcare provider see the inside of your colon using a flexible tube with a small light and camera on the end. During a sigmoidoscopy, your healthcare provider will only look at rectum and lower colon. During a colonoscopy, healthcare providers will look at the full length of your colon. Healthcare providers may remove a small amount of tissue from the colon for a biopsy.

How are colorectal polyps treated?

A polypectomy is a minimally invasive procedure to remove your polyps. They may be removed during a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. Your healthcare provider may need to remove the polyps with a laparoscope. Laparoscopy is done by inserting a small, flexible scope into incisions made on your abdomen.

What are the risks of colorectal polyps?

You may bleed during a colonoscopy procedure. Your bowel may be perforated (torn) when polyps are removed. This may lead to an open abdominal surgery. During surgery, you may bleed too much or get an infection. Adenomatous polyps that are not removed may turn into cancer and become more difficult to treat.

Where can I find support and more information?

  • National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC)
    2 Information Way
    Bethesda , MD 20892-3570
    Phone: 1- 800 - 891-5389
    Web Address:

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • You have abdominal pain that does not go away or gets worse after you take medicine.
  • Your abdomen is swollen.
  • You are losing weight without trying.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have sudden shortness of breath.
  • You have a fast heart rate, fast breathing, or are too dizzy to stand up.
  • You have severe abdominal pain.
  • You see blood in your bowel movement.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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