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Colorectal Polyps: Diagnosis and Treatment

Colorectal polyps are small growths of tissue that form on the lining of the colon or rectum. Most of these polyps are harmless and occur more frequently as we age. Anyone can have them, but the risk increases for people over age 50, overweight people, smokers, and anyone with a family history of polyps.

There are different types of colorectal polyps, and most of them are benign, which means they will not spread and will never become cancerous. Only a small percentage of the most common type, adenomatous polyps, will develop into cancer. Fortunately, a physician can perform a colonoscopy in order to accurately detect and diagnose colorectal polyps.

Because most cases of colorectal polyps involve no symptoms, a doctor’s examination is often when patients first find out that they have polyps. Other people with polyps, however, may have already experienced symptoms such as:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Rectal pain or discomfort
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue caused by blood loss over time

The best way to treat colorectal polyps is to remove them. This is usually done during a bowel examination, like a colonoscopy. A doctor uses biopsy forceps or a wire loop to remove the polyps. They are then examined under a microscope to determine if cancer cells are present. Patients who have had cancerous or potentially cancerous polyps removed are at an increased risk for cancer, and will likely need follow-up screening.

Most polyps can be removed and identified during bowel exams, but some polyps are too large to be removed in those situations. In such cases, laparoscopic surgery may be required. Minimally invasive, laparoscopic surgery called a polypectomy uses a laparoscope – a long, thin instrument with a high-resolution camera – to aid in removal. 

The gastroenterologists at Tampa General Hospital’s Endoscopy Center are skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of colorectal polyps. In 2017-18, TGH was named one of America’s Best Hospitals for Gastroenterology and GI Surgery by U.S. News & World Report.

Use Tampa General Hospital’s Physician Finder to find a gastroenterologist or call 1-800-833-3627.