Polyps can grow in the colon and rectum, but if they are not treated, they can end up turning cancerous. Polyps are growths of tissue in the colon or rectum. In most instances, polyps are benign. They can be small or large. You cannot feel polyps, so they do not cause any symptoms. The only way to diagnose polyps is through a colonoscopy. This is one reason it is so important for you to get annual colonoscopies after the age of forty. Missing a colonoscopy appointment can be the difference between life and death.
Colon and rectal polyps are the same in anatomy but found in different locations. Colon polyps are found near the end of the large intestine. Rectal polyps are found in the rectum; the area of the large intestine that connects with the anus. You may find one polyp in either region or multiple. The polyps can grow and travel from the rectum to the colon or vice versa. When they first develop, they are unnoticeable. Depending on the size, you probably won’t even know you have polyps. Sometimes it is not until you develop cancer that you become symptomatic.
There are three different types of colon polyps. The first type is inflammatory. These are polyps that form due to inflammatory diseases. Most inflammatory diseases of the intestine have flares. The intestine does not always stay inflamed, but when the disease is triggered, it will flare up and cause a lot of pain. After the flare is over, polyps form. Adenomatous is the second type of polyp. It is made of gland tissue. Most of the polyps that form in the colon and rectum are this type. They are rarely cancerous. The last type of polyp is serrated. Serrated polyps range in sizes. Its malignancy is dependent upon the location of the serrated polyps. Most malignant serrated polyps can be found. Serrated polyps are flat polyps which make them difficult to detect. When the polyps grow in the upper part of the intestine, they are considered precancerous. Serrated polyps that grow in the lower part of the intestine are easier to detect and like adenomatous polyps, are rarely cancerous.
Symptoms of a colon or rectal polyp are minimal. Sometimes it is not until they become cancerous that you experience symptoms. Symptoms may include blood in the stool. Sometimes those polyps can create bleeding in the rectum. Larger polyps may change your bowel movements. You can become constipated or have diarrhea. A larger polyp may also create pain. When trying to have a bowel movement, you will feel the most pain. In rare cases, you may have to vomit. When bleeding in the bowl is consistent but not visible you are susceptible to anemia. Your body loses iron when you lose blood. This iron loss leads to fatigue.
If you are under the age of forty, you don’t typically think about polyps. They do not usually form until your mid to late 40’s. If you find yourself feeling sluggish all of a sudden and notice changes in your bowel movements, you may want to see a doctor. The sluggishness could be a symptom of blood loss. If you have unusual pain in the stomach, you may also need to see a doctor. Diagnosis of a polyp is made through a colonoscopy. A doctor will use a tool with a camera to view the inside of the colon. Before the test, the doctor will have you clean your system out with a drink mixture. This mixture acts like a laxative and flushes your whole system. It is important for the colon to be clean so the doctor can get a good look. In the office, the doctor will place the tool through the rectum and view the whole colon.
Treatment takes place during the diagnostic procedure. If the doctor notices polyps during the biopsy, they will remove them right then and there. If the polyps are too large, they may schedule surgery for removal. Depending on the look of the polyp, the doctor may send the polyp for testing. If there is noticeable damage to the colon or rectum due to inflammation or cancer, the doctor will also remove pieces of the intestine. When colon and rectal polyps are found early, they can be removed and not even have a chance to become cancerous. When these polyps are not found for years, they will more than likely eventually turn to cancer.
Polyps in the colon and rectum are not necessarily considered painful, but they can be considered harmful. It is rare for polyps to become cancerous even though colorectal cancer is the third common cause of cancer. For most people polyps remain in the colon for years unnoticed. When the doctor does not remove the polyps right away, they will only grow and become harmful. Many people do not stay on top of their doctor’s visits. They feel as if they are fine and skip those colonoscopy appointments. Polyps can be considered slow killers. Do not miss your doctor’s appointments. As you age, it is especially important to have regular check-ups. If the doctor can remove a polyp now, it can save your life later.
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