Because colorectal polyps can develop into cancer, they should be removed. In most cases, the polyps may be removed while a colonoscopy is being performed. Colonoscopy prevents colon cancer by removing polyps before they can become cancer.
People over age 50 should consider having a colonoscopy or other screening test. Those with a family history of colon cancer or colon polyps may need to be screened at an earlier age.
For patients with adenomatous polyps, new polyps can appear in the future. Follow-up colonoscopy is usually recommended 1 to 10 years later, depending on the:
Patient's age and general health
Number of polyps
Size and characteristics of the polyps
Rarely, for polyps that are very likely to become cancerous, the health care provider may recommend a colectomy (removing part of the colon).
The outlook for patients with colorectal polyps is excellent if the polyps are removed. Polyps that are left behind can develop into cancer over time.
Polyps can cause bleeding, and over time, can develop into cancers.
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if you have
Blood during a bowel movement
Change in bowel habits
The following is recommended to reduce the risk of developing polyps:
Eat a diet low in fat and high in fruits, vegetables, and fiber
Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol intake
Maintain a normal body weight
Colonoscopy prevents colon cancer by removing polyps before they can become cancer. People over age 50 should consider having a colonoscopy or other screening test, which makes earlier diagnosis and treatment possible. This may reduce the odds of developing colon cancer, or at least help catch it in its most treatable stage. Those with a family history of colon cancer or colon polyps may need to be screened at an earlier age.
Taking aspirin or similar medicines may help reduce your risk for new polpys. However, such medicines can have serious side effects if you take them for a long time. Side effects include bleeding from your stomach or colon and heart disease. Talk with your doctor before taking these medicines.
Burt RW, Barthel JS, Dunn KB, et al. NCCN clinical practice guidelines in oncology. Colorectal cancer screening. J Natl Compr Canc Netw. 2010 Jan;8(1):8-61.
Cooper K, Squires H, Carroll C, et al. Chemoprevention of colorectal cancer: systematic review and economic evaluation. Health Technol Assess. 2010 Jun;14(32):1-206.
George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.