Most colon polyps do not cause any problems, but a sample of polyp tissue (called a Reference biopsy Opens New Window) can be removed during screening if you have a Reference flexible sigmoidoscopy or Reference colonoscopy. The tissue is examined to find out if it is the kind of tissue that could become cancer.
If Reference adenomatous polyps Opens New Window are found during an exam with flexible sigmoidoscopy, a colonoscopy will be done to look for and remove any polyps in the rest of the colon.
The bigger a colon polyp is, especially if it is larger than 1 cm (0.4 in.), the more likely it is that the polyp will be adenomatous or contain cancer cells and need to be removed.
In some cases, very small polyps [5 mm (0.2 in.) or less] may not be removed. Some studies have concluded that even if they contain adenomatous tissue, these polyps take so many years to grow that they pose little risk of cancer, except in people who have inherited (familial) polyp syndromes.Reference 1
Most colon polyps are not likely to develop into cancer. If only Reference hyperplastic polyps Opens New Window are found during your flexible sigmoidoscopy, you likely do not need to have a colonoscopy. These polyps do not become cancerous. In this case you can continue your regular screenings, unless you are at an Reference increased risk for colon cancer because of a family history of colon cancer or an inherited polyp syndrome.
Risks of removing polyps during colonoscopy
Complications from colonoscopy are rare. There is a slight risk of:
- Puncturing the colon (less than 1 in 1,000) or causing severe bleeding by damaging the wall of the colon (less than 3 in 1,000).
- Bleeding caused by removing a polyp.
- Complications from sedatives given during the procedure.
Regular screenings for colon polyps are the best way to prevent polyps from developing into colon cancer.
Most colon polyps can be identified and removed during a colonoscopy.
If you have had one or more adenomatous polyps removed, you probably need regular follow-up colonoscopy exams every 3 to 5 years. Talk with your doctor about the follow-up schedule that he or she thinks is best for you.
Treatment if the condition gets worse
Surgery is sometimes needed for large colon polyps that have a broad area of attachment (Reference sessile polyps Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window) to the colon wall. These large polyps sometimes cannot be removed safely during a colonoscopy and may be more likely to develop into cancer.
If cancer is found when the colon polyps are examined, you will begin treatment for colorectal cancer. For more information, see the topic Reference Colorectal Cancer.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference April 27, 2011|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Jerome B. Simon, MD, FRCPC, FACP - Gastroenterology