Colorectal Polyps FAQ
Answers to the most common questions we receive about colon and rectal polyps, such as:
- How do I know if I have colorectal polyps?
- What if polyps are found during a colonoscopy?
- Are polyps hereditary?
- What if I have a cancerous polyp?
How Do I Know if I Have Colorectal Polyps?
Colonoscopy can detect colon polyps. If your doctor finds a polyp during your colonoscopy, it will most often either get removed immediately or biopsied (if it cannot be fully removed).
CT colonography also offers a visualization of your colon and lets your doctor look for polyps. If any polyps are detected during a CT colonography, a follow-up colonoscopy will be scheduled so the doctor can remove the polyp.
FIT-DNA for At-Home Screening
While screening tests like FIT-DNA and FIT don’t actually “see” polyps, test results can point health care providers to a need for additional testing.
Do Colon Polyps and Rectal Polyps Show on a CT Scan?
A CT colonography is a type of CT scan, and this is the only CT screening option that will detect colon polyps.
Learn more about colorectal cancer screening.
How Many Colorectal Polyps is a Lot?
Some types of hereditary syndromes, which lead to an increased risk of colorectal cancer, could leave a person with hundreds of polyps. For others without a genetic link, just one or a few may grow. No matter the number, it is important to have the polyp(s) removed to prevent cancer.
It is important to know how many polyps your doctor found – and to relay that information to your first-degree relatives! Your polyps could impact their cancer risk and when they need to be screened.
What if Polyps are Found During a Colonoscopy?
When it comes to colon polyps, you’re better safe than sorry. It’s best to get all polyps removed so you eliminate the chance a polyp turns into cancer.
If you underwent a colonoscopy, your doctor likely performed a “polypectomy” and removed your polyp(s). Does it hurt? Not generally. Most patients go under sedation when this happens and don’t feel pain during the polyp removal or afterward. If a doctor performed a polypectomy, you will need to follow up to find out what type of polyps he/she removed.
- Polyp completely removed? The entire polyp will be sent to a pathology laboratory for histology.
- Polyp cannot be entirely removed? It will typically get biopsied during the colonoscopy, and your doctor will send the biopsy to the pathology laboratory to determine the histology.
- Polyp too large to grasp and snip off during a colonoscopy? Although rare, a follow up surgery may be required.
Removing the colon polyp can stop the growth of colorectal cancer if it’s done early enough. This is why colorectal cancer screening is so important, and why it’s considered to be a preventable disease!
Types of Polyps
The type of polyp your pathologist describes in the lab report will determine what comes next. For example, if you had small hyperplastic polyps, you may not need to do anything more than get a colonoscopy every 10 years, which is the recommendation for average-risk individuals.
If you have precancerous polyps/adenomas, you will likely need more regular follow up. The good news: polyps don’t come back once removed. However, after polyp removal your risk of developing new polyps is high – about five to ten percent per year for the first several years.
Your Follow Up Will Depend On:
- The size of polyp(s)
- How many polyp(s) are found
- The type of polyp(s)
- Where the polyp(s) are located in the colon
- Your family and personal history
Don’t be surprised if your doctor recommends you need screened three to five years after your initial polyp removal.
Are Polyps Hereditary?
Some people carry a hereditary predisposition to colorectal cancer and polyps. That’s why it is important to talk to your first-degree relatives and discuss if anyone’s doctors found and removed polyps during a routine colonoscopy.
Studies suggest first-degree relatives of patients with advanced adenomas and/or advanced serrated polyps face increased risk for colorectal cancer, and need to discuss screening sooner with their health care provider.
Additionally, people with Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) face a high risk for developing polyps. Learn more about this in our Genetics Mini Magazine and our Hereditary Colorectal Cancer webinar.
What if I Have a Cancerous Polyp?
If the biopsy of your polyp is positive for colorectal cancer, we are here for you. You will need to schedule recommended follow ups and talk to your healthcare provider about who to include on a treatment team.
If doctors find cancer, you can rest assured there are resources to help you with a variety of things including making treatment decisions, understanding terminology, working through anxiety and fear, and more.
There are even resources for your loved ones.
It is always a good idea to seek a second opinion at any time.
Additional Resources on Colon Polyps and Rectal Polyps
American Cancer Society: Understanding your pathology report
US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Sessile Serrated Polyps:
Detection, Eradication, and Prevention of the Evil Twin
The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons: Polyps of the colon and rectum
American College of Gastroenterology: Colon Polyps
The AGA Institute: Family History of Colorectal Adenomas
Fight CRC: Colorectal Cancer Screening Mini Magazine
Fight CRC: Polyps and Prevention Webinar
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