Colorectal polyps are growths that develop in the lining of the colon and the rectum.
A colorectal polyp is a growth that develops on the inner lining of the colon (large intestine) or the rectum. These growths can be flat or slightly raised (sessile) or on a stalk (pedunculated).
The most common types of colorectal polyps include:
- Adenomatous polyps
- Hyperplastic polyps
- Inflammatory polyps
- Serrated polyps
- Villous adenoma polyps
Causes of Colorectal Polyps
Colorectal polyps are caused by genetic changes in the cells that make up the lining of the colon and/or the rectum. A genetic mutation can cause these cells to continue growing and dividing even when it’s unnecessary to do so, which can lead to the formation of polyps.
The following risk factors can increase the chances of developing colorectal polyps:
- Being over age 50
- Being overweight
- Eating processed foods, fatty foods or excessive amounts of red meat
- Failing to exercise
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Having a personal or family history of colorectal polyps
- Having colorectal cancer, familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), Gardner’s syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), MUTYH-associated polyposis (MAP), Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, primary sclerosis cholangitis or serrated polyposis syndrome
Symptoms of Colorectal Polyps
Colorectal polyps generally do not cause any symptoms. However, in some cases, they can lead to:
- Changes in normal bowel habits
- Changes in stool color
- Rectal bleeding (which may or may not be visible to the naked eye)
- Rectal pain or discomfort
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Nausea or vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Abdominal pain or cramping
Because colorectal polyps often cause no symptoms, it’s important to regularly undergo screenings, especially if you’re at a high risk for developing this condition.
Diagnosing Colorectal Polyps
Physicians use a variety of tests to diagnose colorectal polyps, including:
- Computerized tomography (CT) scans
- Stool tests
Treatment for Colorectal Polyps
Although most colorectal polyps are benign (noncancerous), certain types can develop into cancer. Treatment often involves surgically removing these growths and then testing them to determine whether cancer cells are present.
In many cases, physicians can remove colorectal polyps during a colonoscopy or another type of bowel examination using biopsy forceps or a wire loop (polypectomy). However, if a polyp is too large to be removed this way, the doctor may need to perform a laparoscopic procedure. And in rare cases, the colon and rectum may need to be removed (total proctocolectomy). The gastroenterologists at Tampa General Hospital will recommend the course of treatment that’s best suited to your specific needs.