Top of the page
Colon polyps are growths in your large intestine (colon). The cause of most colon polyps is not known, but they are common in adults. Over time, some polyps can turn into colorectal cancer. It usually takes many years for that to happen.
You are more likely to have colon polyps if:
You can have colon polyps and not know it, because they usually don't cause symptoms. They are most often found during routine screening tests for colorectal cancer. A screening test looks for signs of a disease when there are no symptoms.
If polyps are large or become cancerous, they can cause symptoms. You may have bleeding from your rectum or a change in your bowel habits. A change in bowel habits includes diarrhea, constipation, using the toilet more often or less often than usual, or a change in the way your stool looks.
Most colon polyps are found during tests for colorectal cancer. These tests include stool tests that you can do at home (such as stool DNA testing), and procedures to look inside the colon that are done at your doctor's office or clinic.
Stool tests look for signs of cancer in a stool sample. If your result is abnormal, you'll probably have a follow-up colonoscopy to find the cause, which could be colon polyps, colorectal cancer, or another problem.
Procedures that can look inside the colon and find polyps include colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy). Polyps found during a colonoscopy can often be removed during the test. If polyps are found during one of the other procedures, you may need a colonoscopy.
If you've had any polyps, routine follow-up testing is important. How often you need it will depend on what kind of polyps were found, how many, and other issues.
Doctors usually remove colon polyps, because some of them can turn into colorectal cancer. Most polyps are removed during a colonoscopy. You may need to have surgery if you have a large polyp.
After you have had polyps, you have a higher chance of developing new polyps. If you have had polyps removed, it is important to have follow-up testing to look for more polyps. Talk to your doctor about how often you need to be tested.
Adaptation Date: 2/24/2022
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. All rights reserved. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.