Colon polyps are abnormal growths of tissue inside the large intestine (or colon). These precancerous polyps are small, benign clumps, which, over time, can grow larger and become cancerous.
Harvard Health Publishing 1 describes polyps in two ways: some appear as bumps along the walls of the intestines and some are protruding mushroom-shapes towards the foot of a stalk.
It’s estimated that colorectal polyps occur in roughly 30 percent of American adults 2 who are aged 50 years and older. Though colon polyps are benign, some polyp types (called adenomatous polyps) can become cancer. A small percentage of these polyps 2 become cancerous, yet nearly all polyps that are malignant after being tested began as adenomatous.
If you’re wondering how do colon polyps form, and what do they mean in terms of colon cancer, read on. If you are in the process of finding a colon cancer natural treatment plan, our experts will be more than happy to help. We’ll take a closer look at colon polyps in this article and discuss how polyps form, what the different types are, how they’re diagnosed, and what symptoms to look out for.
So, How Do Colon Polyps Form?
Whether they’re in the colon or elsewhere — like the throat, nose, or cervix — polyps grow through rapidly dividing cells. When cells are healthy, they grow and divide in an orderly way. But when mutations cause unregulated growth of cells in the colon and rectum, polyps form. This is similar to how cancer cells grow, which is why if left untreated, polyps can eventually become cancerous.
Types of Polyps
More often than not, polyps are generally benign (or noncancerous). Hyperplastic polyps 3, also known as inflammatory polyps, are one of the most common types of colon polyps. They tend to be harmless and rarely become cancerous. However, the adenomatous polyps cause mutations in the DNA of the colon’s lining, which can progress into colon cancer later on. These polyps can form spontaneously after a person is born, or through certain rare inherited diseases. Some illnesses that can lead to polyps include Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Typically, doctors will recommend removing polyps. There are also malignant polyps, which are polyps that hold cancer cells.
Risk Factors for Polyps
Anyone can develop these types of colon and rectal polyps, but here are a handful of risk factors:
- People who are 50 years and older
- A family history of polyps or colon cancer (particularly if family members were younger when they were diagnosed)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
- A high-fat, low-fiber diet
- Red meat and processed meat consumption
- Use of tobacco and alcohol
- Lack of exercise and obesity
Symptoms of Polyps
Often, people who have polyps aren’t even aware of them. As polyps become larger, they can cause bloody stool or diarrhea, along with symptoms like fatigue and anemia. Polyps can also secrete large amounts of potassium, which can lead to exhaustion and muscle weakness.
Here are some main things to be aware of, which can be signs of either polyps or other conditions like hemorrhoids or small tears in the anus.
Abdominal pain: When large polyps begin to block the bowel, it may lead to abdominal pain.
Stool color: When polyp-bleeding is minor, it can lead to red streaks in the stool, and when it’s heavier, it can make stool look black.
Iron-deficiency Anemia: If polyps bleed over time, an individual might develop anemia, or iron deficiency, which can cause fatigue, blanch skin, and fainting.
Bowel habits: If bowel habits like constipation or diarrhea exceed one week or more, it could be a symptom of polyps.
Diagnosis of Polyps
If you have colon polyps, it’s important to get regular colonoscopies to keep an eye on them. By monitoring and getting polyps removed, you decrease the risk of colon cancer. With any cancer type, especially colon cancer, prevention is key. Through regular screening tests and removing polyps before they become cancerous, you will be taking the necessary steps toward colon cancer prevention.
The American Cancer Society suggests that people at average risk of colorectal cancer start screening regularly by age 45. Individuals are considered to be at average risk if they don’t have an individual history of colorectal cancer or specific types of polyps, a history of colon cancer in the family, a distinctive history of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), a confirmed or presumed hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome (familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome), or a previous history of receiving radiation to the pelvic area or abdomen for treatment of previous cancer.
There are several different tests 4 doctors use to identify if a patient has polyps.
Digital rectal exam: During this type of exam, the doctor will insert a finger inside the rectum to look for abnormal growths.
Fecal occult blood test: This test examines stool samples for small traces of blood, which may be a symptom of polyp growth.
Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) and Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT): A fecal occult blood test is used to find bloody stool, which can be a sign of polyps or cancer. If a test is positive, that means blood has been found in the stool. This can also be caused by bleeding in the upper GI tract and ingesting certain foods, like rare meat. Polyps and cancers don’t bleed continually, so this test is done several times a year and repeated each year for the best results. American Cancer Society notes that this screening test provides a small reduction in deaths from this type of cancer (about 30% if the test is done yearly and about 18% if it is done every other year).
Sigmoidoscopy: A sigmoidoscopy uses a lighted, flexible tube inserted into the rectum and lower colon to look for polyps or abnormal symptoms. The doctor can remove polyps but cannot check the upper part of the colon during this test. If polyps are found, a colonoscopy to view the entire colon (the upper part called the ascending and traverse colon) is suggested.
Colonoscopy: Similar to what’s used in the sigmoidoscopy, a colonoscopy uses an instrument to measure the size of the colon. During a colonoscopy, the doctor examines the entirety of the rectum and colon. They use a flexible tube called a colonoscope, which is placed into the rectum and the colon to search for polyp growths or cancer. Throughout this test, the doctor can also take out small polyps or tissue for examination.
Computed tomography (CT or CAT) Colonography: Sometimes referred to as a virtual colonoscopy, CT colonography is a screening method studied in some centers. It’s done by a radiologist and is seen as a potential alternative for those who can’t go under anesthesia for a regular colonoscopy — or for those who might have a blockage in the colon that prevents the procedure of a colonoscopy.
Additionally, the American Cancer Society states that for people ages 76 through 85, the decision to be screened depends on personal choice, life expectancy, overall health, and prior screening history. They also state that people over 85 should not get colorectal cancer screening.
How to Treat Colon Polyps
Now that we’ve answered how polyps form, the types that exist, and the risks that come with them, as well as how to get them diagnosed, it’s important to reiterate how crucial it is to get them taken care of appropriately. If polyps are left untreated, they can eventually lead to colon cancer. Once diagnosed, there are several ways that colon cancer is treated — both conventionally and naturally.
Conventional treatment typically includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Alternative treatments can also support patients’ recovery without negative risk factors and side effects.
At Immunity Therapy Center, we’re proud to offer a range of alternative cancer treatments from a dedicated and passionate staff. Through treatments like hyperthermia, sonodynamic therapy, laser cancer treatment, and more, patients with colon cancer are given a chance to rebuild their immune system and fight their disease from the inside out.
If you’re interested in learning more about the early signs of colon cancer, feel free to contact us today. Dr. Bautista and his team are here to create a positive experience in an uplifting environment. We understand that each type of colon cancer, or another, is unique. So, too, is each patient. We’re proud to offer individualized and attentive care to everyone who walks through the doors of our holistic cancer treatment center.
At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.