Colon polyps are small outgrowths from the inner lining of the colon and are made up of clumps of cells. The size of these polyps may range from few millimeters to centimeters. These protrusions are not usually cancerous in nature but may become one with the passage of time, in some cases. Location of polyps is not very specific and may be seen anywhere in the colon. The shape may vary from small flat ones to large mushroom-like polyps. The risk of colon cancer increases with the size of the polyp.
Colon polyps may be caused by several factors like genetic, environmental and dietary, all of which lead to abnormal growth of the cells in the walls of the colon. The risk of developing colon polyps increases with age. These polyps are seen more commonly in people above the age of 50-years-old, when compared to younger people. Those with a family history of cancer also have increased risk of developing polyps in colon.
The risk for colon polyps increases with:
- Being overweight
- Eating rich, fatty foods
- Having diet low in fiber
Colon polyps may remain asymptomatic for a long time until it is diagnosed during a routine check up or during the evaluation of some other unrelated condition.
Symptoms, if present, may include:
- Bleeding from rectum – Small dots of blood may be seen after bowel movement if polyps are present in the colon. This is symptom of many other conditions like colon cancer, haemorrhoids and rectal fissures.
- Presence of blood in stool – Bowel movements may looks dark or brown due to the presence of blood or small streaks of blood may be seen in the stool.
- Constipation or diarrhea – Bowel habits and consistency may change over a period of time and this may persist for more than a week with large polyps.
- Obstruction of bowel movement – Polyps which grows into the colon cavity may partially obstruct the movement of bowel content. This may lead to abdominal cramps and pain.
- Nausea and vomiting – Both of these are common symptoms of this condition.
In many cases, doctors may recommend the removal of the polyp, as it increases the risk of colon cancer. Small polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy, while larger polyps may require a surgery.