Colon polyps are growths that develop on the inner wall of the large intestine. Although most polyps that are found in the colon are not cancerous, some may develop into cancer as time passes. Risk factors for polyps in the colon include being 50 years old or older, smoking, and having a family history of colon cancer. Most of the time, these polyps do not cause symptoms. When symptoms do appear, they may include anal bleeding and blood in the stool. To help prevent or detect colon cancer, polyps are removed and tested to see if they are cancerous.
A polyp is a growth protruding from a mucous membrane lining organs in the body (such as the bladder or intestine). Colon polyps grow on the inner wall of the large intestine. The large intestine, also called the colon, is part of your digestive system. It's a long, hollow tube at the end of your digestive tract where your body makes and stores stool.
Most colon polyps are not dangerous, and the majority are benign, which means they are not cancerous. But over time, some types of colon polyps can become cancerous.
Usually, polyps that are smaller than a pea aren't harmful. But larger colon polyps could someday become cancerous or may already be cancer. To be safe, doctors remove all colon polyps and test them.
There are two main types of colon polyps:
- Hyperplastic polyps.
(Click Types of Colon Polyps for more information.)
Anyone can develop colon polyps, but certain people are more likely to get them than others. You may have a greater chance of developing colon polyps if:
- You're 50 years old or older -- the older you get, the more likely you are to develop polyps
- You've had polyps before
- Someone in your family has had polyps
- Someone in your family has had cancer of the large intestine.
You may also be more likely to get colon polyps if you:
- Eat a lot of fatty foods
- Drink alcohol
- Don't exercise
- Weigh too much.