Colon polyps are small growths on the inner lining of the colon (large intestine) that can develop into cancer if left untreated. Some polyps are benign (non-cancerous), while others have the potential to turn into colon cancer over time. The most common type of colon polyp is adenomatous polyp, which has the potential to develop into colon cancer.
Risk factors for developing colon polyps include:
- Age (most polyps occur after age 50)
- Family history of colon cancer or polyps
- Personal history of colon cancer or polyps
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
- Poor diet high in fat and low in fiber
- Physical inactivity
- Heavy alcohol consumption
Symptoms of colon polyps are often not present in the early stages, but as they grow they can cause symptoms such as rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel habits.
Diagnosis is usually made through a colonoscopy, which allows a doctor to examine the inner lining of the colon and remove any polyps that are found. Regular screening for colon polyps is recommended for most people starting at age 50 or earlier for those with a family history of colon cancer or polyps.
Treatment for colon polyps depends on the size, type, and location of the polyp, but typically involves removal of the polyp during a colonoscopy. In some cases, a polyp may need to be removed surgically. Taking steps to reduce your risk factors and regular screening can help prevent the development of colon polyps and reduce the risk of colon cancer.