Polyps are abnormal but common growths that are usually in the colon, or large intestine, although they can occur anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract. They are up to a couple inches in diameter.
Hyperplastic polyps and adenomas are the two common types of polyps. Adenomas are often larger, and they are potentially pre-cancerous growths, but they do not become cancer if they are removed. Hyperplastic polyps are not pre-cancerous. The doctor needs to send the polyps to a lab to determine whether they are hyperplastic polyps or adenomas.
Polyps are found and removed during a colonoscopy, which is considered the most accurate method for diagnosing them and the easiest way to remove them. A sigmoidoscopy or barium enema can identify polyps in the lower end of the colon. During a colonoscopy, the physician can remove polyps, using a wire loop to cut them away from the colon or using a wire current to burn the base of the polyp. The polyps are sent to a lab for analysis.
The procedure is outpatient, and colonoscopies are low-risk. Bleeding can occur from the place where polyps were removed. Another possible complication is perforation of the colon, which requires surgery to repair.
Many factors can increase your risk for polyps. You are more likely to get polyps if you have any of the following characteristics.
You can also make small lifestyle changes to reduce your risk for polyps. Try to lose weight if you are overweight, since extra pounds increase your risk of developing polyps. A high-fiber diet can also help lower your risk of polyps and colon cancer. Foods with dietary fiber include vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts, and whole grains. A low-fat diet can also help. Limit your alcohol intake to 2 drinks a day, for men, or 1 drink per day, for women, and stop smoking if you are a smoker.
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