Polyps are abnormal growths arising from the internal lining of the large intestine (colon). Some polyps are flat; others have a stalk.
Polyps are one of the most common conditions affecting the colon and rectum, occurring in 15-20 percent of the adult population. Although most polyps are benign, certain polyps may eventually turn cancerous.
Most polyps have no symptoms at all and are found incidentally during colonoscopy or x-ray of the bowel (barium enema). Some polyps can cause bleeding, mucous discharge, change in bowel habits, or rarely, abdominal pain.
Polyps are diagnosed either by colonoscopy or by x-ray study (barium enema).
The colon can also be indirectly examined using the barium enema x-ray technique. This examination uses a barium solution to coat the colon lining. X-rays are taken, and unsuspected polyps may frequently found.
As there is no way to predict if a polyp will become cancerous, all polyps should be removed. Most polyps can be removed during colonoscopy, either by catching and cutting them with a wire loop or destroying them by burning with an electrical current. Infrequently, a large polyp cannot be removed and surgery is then required.
Can Polyps Recur?
A polyp does not recur after it is completely removed. However, new polyps will develop in at least 30 percent of people who previously have polyps. Patients with polyps need repeat colonoscopy to find and treat any new polyps.