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Polyps of the Colon and Rectum

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The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Mar 2021| Content last modified Mar 2021
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What is a polyp of the colon or rectum?

A polyp is a round, smooth growth inside a hollow space in your body. For example, you may have polyps in your nose or on your vocal cords.

Your colon is your large intestine Large Intestine Your digestive system breaks food down into separate nutrients that fuel your body. Your digestive tract (also called the gastrointestinal or GI tract) is the hollow tube that food goes through... read more . Your rectum is a pouch at the end of your colon where stool is stored until you pass it. Polyps often grow in your colon (large intestine) or your rectum.

Locating the Large Intestine

Locating the Small Intestine

What causes polyps of the colon and rectum?

Most of the time, doctors don't know what causes a polyp to grow. But certain conditions that run in families can cause polyps, such as:

However, these conditions aren't very common. Most often, polyps just form for no clear reason.

What are the symptoms of polyps of the colon or rectum?

Most polyps don't cause symptoms. The most common symptom is bleeding from your rectum. A large polyp may cause:

  • Cramps

  • Belly pain

  • Intestine problems, such as a blockage

  • Diarrhea

How can doctors tell if I have polyps of the colon or rectum?

Doctors find polyps with sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy (see endoscopy Endoscopy "Endo" means inside, and "scope" means look. So an endoscope is an instrument doctors use to look inside your body. Endoscopes can also be used to do tests and treat diseases. Endoscopes are... read more ). With both of these tests, the doctor threads a thin, lighted tube with a small camera through your anus to look at the inside of your rectum and colon.

How do doctors treat polyps of the colon or rectum?

Doctors remove polyps during sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. Inside the viewing tube is a retractable tool that can snip off the polyp. Sometimes, surgery is needed. If a polyp is cancerous, doctors will run other tests to see how likely it is to have spread. You may need surgery to take out part of your intestine.

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