Colorectal polyps are growths in the size of a few millimeters to several centimeters, on the inner lining of the large intestine and are very common especially in adults more than 50 years of age.
Most colorectal polyps are benign (non-cancerous). However, depending on the type of polyps, the tendency of the polyps becoming malignant (cancerous) differs. The size of the polyp is also related to its potential severity. It takes about 5 – 10 years for a benign polyp to progress into invasive cancer.
Some people are born with colorectal polyps while some develop them during their lifetime. The exact cause of colorectal polyps remains unknown. Besides the age factor, the appearance of colorectal polyps is related to lifestyle factors such as obesity, lack of exercise, a high-fat diet, high consumption of processed food and red meat, insufficient fibre, excessive alcohol and tobacco ingestion.
In some people, genetic conditions (such as Garner’s syndrome, Lynch syndrome and MYH-associated polyposis) cause the cells of the colon to multiply more than they should. Those having personal history of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, colorectal polyps, type 2 diabetes, have a higher risk of developing colorectal polyps.
People with colorectal polyps often have no signs or symptoms. However, when they do, it typically presents itself with amongst others rectal bleeding, change in the colour of the stool, iron deficiency anemia and abdominal pain. Colorectal polyps are diagnosed through screening or surveillance colonoscopy (endoscopic colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy, barium enema, and flexible sigmoidoscopy).
Colorectal polyps are best treated by endoscopic removal and occasionally by surgery. Doctors may also suggest lifestyle changes to prevent development of colorectal polyps and to prevent colorectal polyps from reoccurring.