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Symptoms of Colon Polyps

Colon polyps are a fairly common occurrence.  Luckily, most people having them are not in immediate danger or at risk for a serious disease.  On the other hand, it is imperative colon polyps be removed when they are discovered because testing is the only way to determine if the polyps are cancerous.

Defining Colon Polyps

Colon polyps are tissue growths inside your colon, which is also known as your large intestine.  It is in this area of the digestive system that waste is created and stored before it is expelled from the body.

The majority of colon polyps are benign, which means they are not cancerous. It is possible, however, for a benign colon polyp to become cancerous. As stated, the only way to know for sure whether or not a polyp is cancerous is to remove it from the colon and perform laboratory testing.  For these reasons, all colon polyps that are discovered need to be removed. Furthermore, the symptoms of colon polyps may not present themselves in such a way you feel an urgency to seek medical attention.

Colon polyps smaller in size than a pea usually are not cancerous and will not become so.  Larger ones however are at a higher risk for becoming cancerous, though it is possible for a larger polyp to be benign and for a small polyp to be cancerous.

Causes of Colon Polyps

No one is sure why colon polyps develop, but there are a number of risk factors for increasing your chances of developing them.  These include:

  • Age – While it is possible to develop colon polyps at any age, you are at a greater risk as you get older.  For this reason, it is advisable to get regular colon check-ups from age 50 and thereafter.
  • Personal History – If you have had colon polyps or colon cancer in the past, you are more likely to develop colon polyps in the future.
  • Family History – If you have a family member that has suffered from colon cancer or that has developed polyps, you are more likely to develop them as well.
  • Poor Diet– Eating a diet filled with fatty foods can increase your chances of developing colon polyps.
  • Weight – Being overweight increases your risk for colon polyps.
  • Lack of Exercise – Failure to get regular exercise puts you in a higher risk category for developing colon polyps.
  • Drinking and Smoking – Abusing drugs and alcohol increases your risk for colon polyps.

Reducing Risk Factors for Colon Polyps

Obviously, there isn’t much you can do about changing your personal or family history.  But, there are several things you can do to reduce your chances of developing colon polyps, even if you’re in the higher risk category.

First of all, you should eat a healthy diet that is rich in fiber.  This means including plenty of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains on your menu.  You should also include plenty of exercise in your schedule and try to lose weight if you are overweight.  If you smoke or drink alcohol on a regular basis, do your colon and the rest of your body a favor by quitting.

What are the Symptoms of Colon Polyps?

Unfortunately, there are usually no dramatic symptoms of colon polyps to alert you to the problem.  Because there are usually no noticeable symptoms, it is important to get a regular check up.  For most people, the only symptoms of colon polyps are actually discovering them during an examination.

In severe cases, the symptoms of colon polyps can mimic many other digestives disorders.  These crossover symptoms include:

  • Bleeding from the anus (commonly identified from blood in the underwear or by finding blood on the toilet paper when wiping after a bowel movement)
  • Blood in the stool (which may be either black or red streaks)
  • Diarrhea for longer than one week
  • Constipation for longer than one week

What Should I Do if I Notice Symptoms?

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should see a qualified physician specializing in colon health right away.  Unfortunately, the symptoms of colon polyps are very similar to many serious digestive disorders – including colon cancer.  The earlier the disorder is identified, the more likely and effectively you can be treated.

Treating Colon Polyps

If polyps are found in your colon, they have to be removed.  This is the only way to test for cancer and to possibly prevent cancer from developing.  Most colon polyps can be removed easily during a sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy, which is the same procedure used to examine your colon.

During the sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, the polyp is snared and cut off at the stalk.  At the same time, it is cauterized by the instrument.  If your colon polyp is particularly large, however, the doctor will need to cut through your abdomen in order to reach the polyp and remove it.  After removal, it will be sent off for testing.  If the polyp is cancerous, further treatment will be necessary in order to fight the disease. Otherwise, your doctor will probably put you on a regular check-up schedule in order to monitor your colon and your overall health.

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