Polyps in Colon: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Causes & Treatment

Polyps in the colon are associated with excessive growth of the cells that line the intestines. In most cases, they do not cause any signs or symptoms, but they should be removed to prevent complications.

Normally, intestinal polyps are benign, however, they can potentially develop into colon cancer, which is life-threatening when diagnosed in advanced stages.

People over 50 years of age or people with a family history of polyps or intestinal cancer should consult a gastroenterologist and screen for polyps in the colon.

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Main symptoms

The most common signs and symptoms polyps in the colon are:

  • Change in bowel habits, like diarrhea or constipation
  • Blood in the stool, either visible or detected with an FOB test 
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort, with gas and intestinal cramps.

It is important that people consult a doctor if you notice these symptoms, so that further testing can be ordered to confirm or rule out polyps in the colon.

Can intestinal turn into cancer?

In most cases, intestinal polyps are benign and have a low probability of turning into cancer. However polyps in the colon that are determined to be villous or tubulovillous adenomatous are at a higher risk for becoming cancerous. The risk for cancer is also higher in sessile polyps, which are flat, and more than 1 cm in diameter.

Furthermore, some factors can increase the risk of the polyp transforming into cancer, such as the presence of several polyps in the intestine, being over 50 years old and having inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, for example.

To reduce the risk of intestinal polyps turning into cancer, all polyps in the colon that measure over 0.5 cm should be removed. It is also important to exercise regularly, eat plenty of fiber, and avoid drinking and smoking, as these are risk factors for cancer. 

Confirming a diagnosis

The diagnosis of intestinal polyps is made by the gastroenterologist by performing an imaging test, such as colonoscopy, which aims to observe the interior of the intestine, making it possible to identify any sign of change, including polyps. Understand ARTICLE NOT FOUND IN EN: how colonoscopy is performed.

The doctor may request other complementary tests to confirm a diagnosis and assess the severity of the disease, such as an FOB test, which detects blood in the stool. 

Also recommended: Blood in Stool: 9 Common Causes & What to Do tuasaude.com/en/blood-in-stool

Main causes

Polyps in the colon can occur due to factors related to eating and lifestyle habits, and are more common after the age of 50. Some of the main causes of polyps include:

  • Overweight or obesity
  • Uncontrolled type 2 diabetes
  • High-fat diet
  • A diet low in calcium, vegetables and fruits
  • Inflammatory diseases, such as colitis
  • Lynch syndrome
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis
  • Gardner syndrome
  • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome

Furthermore, people who smoke or drink alcohol frequently or who have a family history of polyps or bowel cancer are also at a greater risk for developing polyps in the colon.

Treatment options

Treatment for polyps in the colon involves removing them during a colonoscopy, which is referred to as a polypectomy. This is especially indicated for polyps measuring over 1 cm.  After removal, these polyps are sent to the laboratory for analysis to check for signs of malignancy. Depending on the laboratory results, the doctor can initiate treatment.

After removing the polyp, it is important to take precautions to avoid complications and the formation of new intestinal polyps. The doctor may recommend repeating the exam after a few years to check for new polyps and remove them as necessary.

Asymptomatic polyps measuring less than 0.5 cm may not need to be removed. The doctor may advise a follow-up and a repeat exam later on.