Colon Polyps: Treatment, Removal, Diagnosis

Medically reviewed by: Gary H. Hoffman, MD

A colon polyp is a small growth that develops on the lining of the large intestine, also called the colon. Polyps may develop either alone, or several may develop at one time. Colon polyps may be benign or malignant, and often require endoscopic or surgical removal.

Colon polyps develop in the colon or rectum as a result of abnormal cell growth. Polyps may develop at any point throughout the large intestine, and may be of different shapes or sizes. The three dominant classifications of colon polyps include inflammatory, hyperplastic or adenomatous. The exact classification is based upon their microscopic appearance.

Inflammatory colon polyps are common among individuals that suffer from inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Hyperplastic colon polyps are a common form of the growth, and often develop in the lower portion of the colon or rectum. They rarely cause problems but should be removed. Adenomatous polyps are another common type of colon polyp, and are strongly associated with colon cancer. In fact most colon cancers begin as adenomatous polyps.

Treatment and Removal of Colon Polyps

If a polyp is detected, your surgeon will remove it to examine the tissue more closely under a microscope, and determine if the polyp is cancerous or not. Though most polyps are benign, they do have the ability to grow larger and become malignant, so it is best to remove the growth early to prevent any health concerns later on.

Polyps are removed in a number of ways. In many situations, a polyp can be removed during a colonoscopy, with a special tool that is designed to cut the stalk of the polyp and cauterize it at the same time to prevent bleeding. If a polyp is small, then the removal process may involve burning or cauterizing the growth.

Many polyps can be removed during a non-surgical colonoscopy, but in certain situations an operation to remove the portion of the colon containing the polyp may be recommended. Your colon and rectal specialist will provide you with any necessary information about operations to remove polyps if surgical removal becomes necessary. Most operations are performed laparoscopically through small abdominal incisions, using a video camera and special instruments. Laparoscopic operations allow patients to return to the activities of daily living at a much quicker rate and with less postoperative pain.

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