A colon polyp is a tissue growth inside the lining of a person’s large intestine. This condition is quite common and because polyps can become cancerous, it is important to have them removed. Polyps can vary in size and individuals who have large-sized polyps will develop specific symptoms.
Colon polyps occur due to genetic alterations in the cells that line the inside of the colon. There are risk factors that can increase a person’s chance of developing colon polyps. These factors include being over 50 years of age and being closely related to a person who has colon polyps or colon cancer. Once a person has colon polyps, they run a high risk of developing them again.
Many individuals who have colon polyps are not aware they have them because they do not have any symptoms.
Polyps that are larger in size can cause various symptoms, such as bloody bowel movements, dark-colored stool, feeling weak and faint, and a skin tone that is paler than normal.
A family history of colon polyps is the most common cause of the disorder. The inherited gene causes a mutation, instigating the formation of polyps anywhere in the large intestine. Mutated gene cells divide and grow, prompting an excessive growth of the tissue that forms into a colon polyp.
Older adults are more susceptible to colon polyps because the body functions slow down or we fail to consume the proper nutrients and fluids to move food through the digestive tract. The lack of fiber and fluid causes chronic constipation, followed by irritation and inflammation triggering abnormal tissue growth in the colon. Medications associated with side effects of constipation can also bring about the growth of irregular tissue forming colon polyps.
Lifestyle choices increase the risk of colon polyps; diets high in fat, excessive red meat and low in fiber contribute to this condition. Most colon polyps are adenomas and noncancerous. However, if you are diagnosed with colitis or Crohn’s disease, take precautions—this condition causes inflammatory polyps connected to colon cancer.
It is important for individuals who are at risk for polyps to have periodic colon testing. Physicians may recommend a stool test, a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy.
If colon polyps are discovered during a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy, a physician will remove them during the procedure. If the polyps cannot be taken out during the procedure, surgery must be scheduled to have them removed. Surgery is common for the removal of sessile polyps because they are positioned horizontally on the inside of the colon. Individuals who have polyps removed by any method should have periodical testing at least every five years.
There is no prevention of colon polyps, but science and medicine both agree a healthy lifestyle can prevent excessive growth of polyps leading to more serious health conditions. A healthy diet should include calcium rich foods and vitamin D. Before changing your diet, talk with your doctor to make sure there are no risks to other health issues.
If there is a family history of colon polyps, the more you know about the condition, the better prepared you are to discuss this genetic disorder with your family. Talk with your doctor about the family cases and rates of occurrence. They may suggest regular screening to watch any future developments or changes. Early detection of any health concern is always the best prevention.