Colon polyps are fairly common. It's estimated that between 15 and 40 percent of adults in the United States have colon polyps. Dr. Patel, can you tell us about this condition?
Absolutely, Dr. Mansfield. Colon polyps are growths on the lining of the colon, or large intestine, and the rectum. They are common as people age, grow for a variety of reasons, and are typically precancerous. It's possible to have more than one polyp scattered throughout the colon, and they may vary in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters.
Some polyps appear flat, but others appear raised and resemble small bumps. These are called sessile polyps. Pedunculated polyps grow on short stalks, like a mushroom or small cauliflower.
A majority of colon polyps are benign, or not cancerous, but most are precancerous. In fact, it's important to note that most colon cancers start as colon polyps. Precancerous polyps that can turn into cancer are called adenomas. Types of polyps that don't typically have cancer potential include hyperplastic polyps, inflammatory polyps, and hamartomatous polyps.
Adenomas and hyperplastic polyps are the two most common types of polyps found in the colon. However, it can be difficult to know what kind of polyp a person has until it's removed and examined under a microscope. For this reason, undergoing a screening exam to find polyps, and their subsequent removal, is extremely important to prevent colorectal cancer.