What is a polyp of the colon or rectum?
A polyp is a round, smooth growth inside a hollow space in your body. For example, you may have polyps in your nose or on your vocal cords.
Your colon is your large intestine Large Intestine Your digestive system breaks food down into separate nutrients that fuel your body. Your digestive tract (also called the gastrointestinal or GI tract) is the hollow tube that food goes through... read more . Your rectum is a pouch at the end of your colon where stool is stored until you pass it. Polyps often grow in your colon (large intestine) or your rectum.
Locating the Large Intestine
You may have one polyp or a large number of them
Colon polyps are often harmless, but some are cancerous Colon Cancer Your colon is your large intestine. Your rectum is a pouch at the end of your colon where stool is stored until you pass it. Cancer is the out-of-control growth of cells in your body. Cells... read more or may become cancerous
Certain conditions that run in families can cause polyps
Polyps may grow on a stalk (a thin stem that joins the polyp to the intestinal wall)
The larger the polyp, the greater the chance it's cancerous
Polyps may cause bleeding from your rectum
Doctors check for polyps with a colonoscopy
Doctors treat polyps by removing them
Polyps that are initially harmless can develop into colon cancer Colon Cancer Your colon is your large intestine. Your rectum is a pouch at the end of your colon where stool is stored until you pass it. Cancer is the out-of-control growth of cells in your body. Cells... read more , which is why doctors remove them during a colonoscopy.
What causes polyps of the colon or rectum?
Most of the time, doctors don't know what causes a polyp to grow. But certain conditions that run in families can cause polyps, such as:
Familial adenomatous polyposis Familial Adenomatous Polyposis Familial adenomatous polyposis is an inherited disorder in which many (often 100 or more) precancerous polyps develop throughout the large intestine and rectum during childhood or adolescence... read more (a disease that runs in families and causes colon cancer)
Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (a disease that causes polyps in your stomach and intestines and blue and black spots on your face, hands, and feet)
However, these conditions are uncommon. Most often, polyps just form for no clear reason.
What are the symptoms of polyps of the colon or rectum?
Most polyps don't cause symptoms. The most common symptom is bleeding from your rectum. A large polyp may cause:
Intestine problems, such as a blockage
How can doctors tell if I have polyps of the colon or rectum?
Doctors find polyps with sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy (see endoscopy Endoscopy Endoscope is an instrument doctors use to look inside your body. Endoscopes can also be used to do tests and treat diseases. Endoscopes are tubes that have a light and a small video camera on... read more ). With both of these tests, the doctor threads a thin, lighted tube with a small camera through your anus to look at the inside of your rectum and colon.
How do doctors treat polyps of the colon or rectum?
Doctors remove polyps during sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. Inside the viewing tube is a retractable tool that can snip off the polyp. Sometimes, surgery is needed. If a polyp is cancerous, doctors will run other tests to see how likely it is to have spread. You may need surgery to take out part of your intestine.