Our gastroenterologist, Dr. Pratima Dibba, discusses what are colon polyps and the symptoms.
Polyps are abnormal growth in the lining of the colon and they can be benign, precancerous, or even harbor malignancy themselves. There are a wide variety of polyps, and so you may hear that polyps are being referred to as hyperplastic, adenomatous, sessile serrated, tubular, and all of these have a different risk of progression to malignancy.
Some of the risk factors that have been named include having a personal history of colon polyps, family history of colon polyps, certain hereditary or genetic conditions, tobacco use, excess alcohol use, a low-fiber diet, ingestion of excess meat or processed foods, being obese, living a sedentary lifestyle, and in some cases, certain ethnicities have a higher propensity to form polyps than others.
So generally patients who have polyps are asymptomatic, but in some cases can present with rectal bleeding, abnormal weight loss, abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, or even a low blood count or anemia. The best test that we have to diagnose colon polyps are colonoscopies and sigmoidoscopies because they allow us to actually visualize the polyps, look through each fold of the colon and see where polyps might be hiding, and potentially resect them in real time.
After polyps are resected, a patient can resume their normal activities the next day. Data actually shows that detection and removal of colon polyps is associated with an over 50% decrease in the risk of colon cancer and over a 70% decrease in colon cancer-related death. So if you can get those polyps removed, why not get them removed?