Symptoms of Colon Polyps
Blood in the stool, bleeding from the anus, constipation or diarrhea lasting more than a week are common symptoms of colon polyps. If you experience any of these symptoms, the doctor may perform tests (such as a colonoscopy) to search for polyps. In many cases -- especially if the growth is small -- a patient will experience no colon polyp symptoms.
Most small polyps don't cause symptoms. Often, people don't know they have one until the doctor finds it during a regular checkup or while testing them for something else.
But some people do have symptoms, such as:
- Bleeding from the anus. You might notice blood on your underwear or on toilet paper after you've had a bowel movement.
- Constipation or diarrhea that lasts more than a week.
- Blood in the stool. Blood can make stool look black, or it can show up as red streaks in the stool.
If you have any of these symptoms, see a doctor. He or she can help identify the cause of the symptoms.
Tests used to detect colon polyps include the following:
- Digital rectal exam. For this exam, the doctor wears gloves and checks your rectum (the last part of the large intestine) to see if it feels normal. This test would find polyps only in the rectum, so the doctor may need to do one of the other tests listed below to find polyps higher up in the intestine.
- Barium enema. The doctor puts a liquid called barium into your rectum before taking x-rays of your large intestine. Barium makes your intestine look white in the pictures. Polyps are dark, so they're easy to see.
- Sigmoidoscopy. With this test, the doctor puts a thin, flexible tube into your rectum to view the last third of your large intestine. The device is called a sigmoidoscope, and it has a light and a tiny video camera in it.
- Colonoscopy. This test is like a sigmoidoscopy, but the doctor looks at all of the large intestine. It usually requires sedation.
If a polyp is found, the doctor will remove it. Sometimes, the doctor takes it out during sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. Or the doctor may decide to operate through the abdomen instead. Once removed, the polyp is then tested for cancer.
If you've had polyps in the past, the doctor may want you to get tested regularly in the future.