Colon and Rectal Polyps

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UW Health Colon and Rectal Surgery specialists in Madison, Wisconsin provide comprehensive evaluation and surgical treatment of diseases of the colon, rectum and anus.


Polyps are one of the most common conditions affecting the colon and rectum, occurring in 15 to 20 percent of the adult population.


Overview of Colon and Rectal Polyps


Polyps are abnormal growths that occur in the lining of the large intestine. Polyps can either be flat (called sessile), or may have a stalk and extend into the intestinal canal. Polyps can occur throughout the large intestine or rectum, but are more commonly found in the left colon, sigmoid colon, or rectum.


Over time, certain types of polyps, called adenomatous polyps, may develop into cancer. Another common type of polyp found in the colon is called a hyperplastic polyp, which usually does not develop into colon cancer.


Polyps bigger than 1 centimeter have a greater cancer risk than polyps under 1 centimeter.


Symptoms of Polyps


Most individuals do not experience any symptoms related to polyps, though some polyps can produce bleeding, mucous discharge, changes in bowel habits, and in rare cases, abdominal pain.


Diagnosing Polyps


There are different tests that can be used to identify the presence of polyps. There are benefits and limitations to the tests, and your physician will help determine which test is appropriate for your situation.

  • Fecal occult blood test
  • Colonoscopy
  • Virtual colonoscopy
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy

Treating Polyps


There is a strong relationship between untreated polyps and colon cancer. Because it is impossible to predict which polyps may grow to become malignant, it is recommended that all polyps be removed.


Most polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy. They are either snared with a wire loop or destroyed with an electrical current. This is done on an outpatient basis.


Larger polyps may require more than one treatment, while other polyps, due to their size or position, may require surgery.


Recurrence of Polyps


Once polyps have been removed, there is a chance additional polyps may develop. For those with a history of colon and rectal polyps, routine screenings are recommended.