Colorectal polyps are a common condition that affect up to 30 percent of older adults in the US. This condition is characterized by a small cluster of cells that form on the lining of the colon, also known as the large intestine. Most polyps are not cancerous and are simply a result of abnormal cell growth, but some can gradually turn into colon cancer, so regular screening and removal of all polyps is important.
Small polyps do not usually cause symptoms, but larger ones may cause rectal bleeding, bloody stools, constipation, diarrhea or pain. Polyps can form anywhere within the large intestine and are can vary in size and appearance depending on the type. The three main types of colorectal polyps are:
Certain factors may put you at a higher risk for developing colorectal polyps. Some of these factors include being over the age of 50, being male, a family history of polyps, smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity. Regular colon screenings are recommended for people over the age of 50. If any abnormalities are found or you are experiencing signs of colorectal polyps, your doctor may perform a series of diagnostic tests such as a digital rectal exam, barium enema, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.
If a colorectal polyp is discovered, it will likely be removed in order to prevent the chance of cancer. Most polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, while others may be burned with an electrical current or surgically removed. Surgical removal can often be performed laparoscopically to minimize scarring and recovery time.
You can help reduce your risk of developing colorectal polyps and cancer by having regular screenings and maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle. Talk to your doctor about different steps you can take.
Colon cancer refers to cancer of the large intestine (colon) while rectal cancer refers to cancer of the last 6 inches of the colon (rectum). Cancers affecting either of these organs are collectively known as colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women in the United States. The vast majority of individuals with colorectal cancer have no family history of the disease.
Colorectal cancer occurs when some of the cells that line the colon or the rectum become abnormal and grow uncontrollably. Most cases of colorectal cancer begin as small, benign clumps of cells called polyps. Over time some of these polyps may become cancerous. Polyps may be small and produce few, if any, symptoms.
Regular screening tests can help prevent colon cancer by identifying polyps before they become cancerous. Flexible colonoscopy is the "gold standard" screening test for colorectal cancer. Men and women are recommended to have their first colonoscopy by the age of 50. This is to be done earlier when there is a family history of colorectal cancer or if the patient presents with symptoms. These symptoms may include changes in bowel habits, blood in your stool, abdominal pain, bloating, and fatigue.
Laparoscopic colorectal surgery makes it possible to remove portions of the colon, rectum and small intestine through minimally invasive methods. Instead of creating a large incision, laparoscopic colorectal surgery enables the surgeon to create three or four small incisions, each one shorter than half an inch. Smaller incisions mean a quicker recovery period for patients, allowing them to resume day-to-day activities sooner than if they underwent a traditional "open" colorectal surgery.
Laparoscopic colorectal surgery may be used to treat a variety of conditions, including ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, colon polyps, and colorectal cancer. As with other laparoscopic procedures, not all patients may qualify for laparoscopic colorectal surgery. Talk to your doctor to see if you are eligible for laparoscopic colorectal surgery.