Colon polyps, in some cases, are the precursors of colon cancer. Therefore , it is important to identify and remove colon polyps in the early stage. People who are at high risk of developing colon polyps should undergo colon screening regularly .
Colon polyps are the accumulation of cells on the inner surface of the small intestine (colon). The condition may be due to a change in the genetic information related to cell division. During the normal process, the cell divides, matures, and dies. However, in colon polyps, the cells do not die, and thus, there is an accumulation leading to the polyp.
Most polyps are non-cancerous and harmless. However, some polyps increase the risk of colon cancer. Colon cancer may be fatal if found in advanced stages. People who are at high risk of colon polyps should undergo routine colon examinations. The doctor may advise you to get the colon polyps removed , to reduce the risk of cancer. Colon polyps are of various shapes and sizes. They may be raised, flat, or stalked.
Types of Colon Polyps
There are various types of colon polyps. The categories are based on shapes, sizes, and their potential to cause colon cancer. Following are the types of colon polyps:
- Adenomatous polyps: These are the most common type of polyps. Unfortunately, these polyps also carry a higher risk of developing colon cancer.
- Hyperplastic polyps: These polyps do not have the potential of developing into colon cancer. It is, thus, important to distinctly differentiate between the adenomatous and hyperplastic polyp during screening for cancer.
- Miscellaneous Polyps: Various other types of polyps may also occur in the colon. These are inflammatory polyps and juvenile polyps.
There are two main categories of polyps namely, neoplastic and non-neoplastic. Neoplastic polyps are adenomas and serrated types. Generally, the larger a polyp, the higher the risk of cancer, especially with neoplastic polyp. Non-neoplastic polyps include hamartomatous polyps, hyperplastic polyps and inflammatory polyps. Typically, these types of polyps do not become cancerous.
Symptoms of Colon Polyps
In most cases, colon polyps does not cause any symptoms. The doctor generally diagnoses this condition while examining the colon for some other condition or during routine colonoscopy . Some people, however, may have the following symptoms of colon polyps:
- Pain: You may experience pain due to colon polyp. It is because the polyp may partially or completely block the colon resulting in abdominal cramping.
- Change in the color of stool: You may also have a change in the color of your stool. You may see a red stool because of the presence of blood. The color of stools may also be black if the polyp is present in the proximal part and is bleeding.
- Alteration in bowel habits: You may also experience a change in your normal bowel habits. The large polyps may secrete fluid in the alimentary tract leading to diarrhea. If the polyp is large enough to either partially or completely obstruct the colon, you may experience constipation.
- Bleeding: Colon polyps may result in rectal bleeding. However, malignancy and hemorrhoids can also cause rectal bleeding.
- Anemia: Colon polyp may cause iron-deficiency anemia. It is because of the bleeding of polyps. In some cases, the blood is not visible in the stools. The doctor identifies its presence while checking for occult blood in the stools .
- You may also experience various symptoms related to anemia, such as pale skin, rapid heart rate, weakness, and fainting.
- Intussusception: It is the condition in which one part of the intestine slides or telescopes into the other. Colon polyps, in rare cases, may lead to intussusception. If you have this condition, you may experience nausea, vomiting, and pain in the abdomen.
When to See a Doctor?
If you are at high risk for developing colon polyps, you should keep a close watch on the symptoms. Book an appointment with your doctor:
- If you experience pain in the abdomen.
- If you see any changes in the color of your stool.
- If you have a sudden alteration in bowel habits.
- If you experience weakness, fainting, and pale skin color.
- If you experience nausea, vomiting, and abdominal distension.
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Causes of Colon Polyps
There is no information about how colon polyp occurs. It may be me due to environmental factors or genetic factors or interaction between both environmental and genetic factors. Colon polyps are likely to occur due to mutation in the cells of the intestinal lining. Because of the mutation, cell accumulation occurs, leading to polyps.
Risk Factors for Colon Polyps
The exact reason for the occurrence of colon polyp is not known. Certain factors increase the risk of colon polyps. These factors are:
- Age 50 years or above.
- Overweight or obese.
- Underlying medical conditions such as ulcerative colitis or other inflammatory intestinal conditions.
- Sedentary lifestyle.
- Uncontrolled type 2 diabetes.
- Smoking and drinking alcohol.
- If you have a family history of colon polyps.
- Hereditary disorders such as Familial Adenomatous Polyposis, MYH-associated polyposis (MAP), Lynch syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, Serrated polyposis syndrome, and Gardner’s syndrome.
Treatments of Colon Polyps
Removing polyps is the most preferable treatment for this condition. Your doctor may advise you to remove all the colon polyps seen during bowel screening. Following are the various methods for removing the colon polyps:
- Minimally invasive surgery: During minimally invasive surgery, the surgeon may remove the colon polyps with the help of a laparoscope. Laparoscopic surgery effectively removes large colon polyps.
- Polypectomy: During this procedure, the doctor injects a fluid in the colon under the polyp. This will lift the polyp, and then the doctor removes it without any harm to the surrounding tissue.
- Proctocolectomy: If the colon polyps are due to a genetic condition, the doctor may advise you to undergo proctocolectomy, which involves removal of the colon and rectum.
Complications of Colon Polyps
Complications of colon polyps depend upon the size and its potential to cause colon cancer. Some of the complications are:
- Intestinal obstruction
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Colon cancer
- Severe anemia
Prevention of Colon Polyps
You can prevent the occurrence of colon polyps by the following measures:
- Vitamin D and calcium supplements: Studies have indicated that vitamin D and calcium supplements reduce the risk of developing colon polyps. However, their mechanism in reducing polyps remains unclear.
- Healthy Lifestyle: You should follow a healthy lifestyle. Avoid drinking alcohol and do not smoke. Eat a healthy diet and perform exercise routinely.
- Monitor: If you are at high risk for developing colon polyps, you should consult with your doctor. Undergo routine monitoring to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Colon polyps are the accumulation of cells on the lining of the colon. Polyps may be of different shapes and sizes. They increase the risk of colon cancer. Symptoms of colon polyps are blood in stool , alteration in bowel habits, anemia, and abdominal pain.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What are the foods that increase the risk of colon polyps?
Certain foods increase the risk of colon polyps. These include processed meat, fried food, beef and pork, sausage, lunch meats, and hot dogs.
- In how much time, the colon polyps turn into colon cancer?
There is no accurate information about the time of conversion of polyp to cancer. However, it may take around 10-15 years. This is the reason why the doctor recommends getting a colonoscopy every ten years.
- Can colon polyp recur after removal?
In some cases, the polyp may recur after removal. The rate of recurrence is high in people with genetic diseases.
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