Colon polyps, also known as colorectal polyps, are small clusters of cell growth that form on the surface of the colon. The colon or the large intestine is a long hollow tube located at the bottom of the digestive tract, where the system makes and stores stool. It is a harmless condition in most cases, but over time some polyps may develop into colon cancer, which may be serious when found in its last stage. It can affect people of all age groups, but older people, those who are overweight or smoker or have a family history of colon polyps or colon cancer are at high risk. Colon polyps don’t show any symptoms. Hence it is vital to have a regular examination and tests like colonoscopy, as polyps found in the early stages can be safely removed.
Types Of Colon Polyps
Colon polyps usually vary in size and number and there are three types of colon polyps:
Hyperplastic polyps are quite harmless and don’t develop into cancer.
Adenomatous polyps are the most common ones. Though the chance of developing into cancer is low, they sometimes have the possibility to become colon cancer.
Malignant polyps are observed under microscopic examination that have cancer cells.
Generally, colon polyps do not cause any symptoms and are only found on routine colon cancer screening tests. However, some people may experience symptoms which include:
Pain in the colon
Diarrhoea or constipation that lasts for more than a week
Nausea or vomiting
Blood streaked stools is an indication of rectal bleeding and should be promptly examined by a doctor.
The body regularly develops healthy cells to replace old cells that are damaged. But mutations in certain genes can cause cells to continue dividing even when new cells aren’t required by the body. In the colon and rectum, this unregulated growth can result in polyps’ formation, and it can develop anywhere in the large intestine.
Certain factors that can increase your risk of developing colon polyps, include:
Age over 50
Family history of polyps or colon cancer
Ovarian cancer or uterine cancer
Inflammatory condition that affects the colon such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
Uncontrolled type 2 diabetes
Hereditary disorder such as Lynch syndrome or Gardner’s syndrome
Excess alcohol intake
Poor dietary habits
Screening tests play a vital role in detecting polyps before they become cancerous. These tests can help the doctor find colorectal cancer in its early stages and increases the chance of recovery.
Screening tests include:
Colonoscopy: In this procedure, a camera attached to a thin, flexible tube is looped via the anus. This aids the doctor to view the rectum and colon. Any polyp found is removed and tissue samples are sent for analysis.
Sigmoidoscopy: This procedure is similar to a colonoscopy, but it can be used to view the rectum and lower colon. It cannot be used to collect a biopsy or sample of tissue. If the doctor detects polyp, you’ll need to get a colonoscopy to remove it.
Barium Enema: In this test, the doctor injects liquid barium into the rectum and then uses a special X-ray to take images of the colon. Barium makes the colon appear white in the X-ray.
CT Colonography: A CT scan of the colon takes the images of the colon and rectum. The computer merges the images of the colon and rectum to produce both 2 and 3 D views of the region. A CT colonography is sometimes called virtual colonoscopy. This scanning procedure shows swollen tissues, masses, ulcers, and polyps.
Stool Test: A stool sample is collected in a test kit, and it is sent for analysis, mainly for detecting any microscopic bleeding. This test will determine if there is any blood in the stool, which can be an indication of a polyp.
The best way to treat colon polyps is to remove them and, in most cases, small ones are removed by the doctor during a colonoscopy. The polyps are examined under a microscope to see what type of poly it is and if there are any cancer cells present. Surgery may be needed to remove large ones that cannot be removed during a colonoscopy. Laparoscopic surgery is performed, a minimally invasive procedure, where a long, thin tube with a high-intensity light and a high-resolution camera is inserted via an incision in the abdomen. Once the surgeon has a visual of the colon, they will remove the polyps using a special tool. This sample is sent for tissue analysis to check for any cancerous cells.