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Signs and Symptoms of Colon Polyps

written by: BStone • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 3/13/2011

What are the symptoms of colon polyps? How can these growths be detected if there are no noticeable signs?

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    Colon Polyps

    Colon polyps are benign growths that form on the wall of the colon (large intestine). There may be one or several polyps and they can be very small or large, flat or mushroom shaped. It is not known why these growths form, although they are, like cancer, the result of abnormal cell growth. Colon polyps are not necessarily cancerous, although some types can become malignant over time.

    This is why it is so important to know if you have colon polyps and if you are likely to have these growths develop. Find out how to recognize the symptoms of colon polyps, but be aware that in most cases there will not be symptoms. Routine screenings may therefore be the only way you'll know if there are growths along your intestine. Polyps are generally removed with a relatively simple surgical procedure.

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    Possible Symptoms

    While there may be no signs of polyps, especially if the growths are smaller in size, there are several recognizable symptoms that may occur. If you experience any of these symptoms make sure you see your doctor to find out what the problem is.

    Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool are two telltale signs of a health problem, possibly colon polyps. Rectal bleeding is easy to recognize — there will be blood in the toilet or on tissue paper after having a bowel movement. This may be a sign of a benign growth, of colon cancer or something as minor as hemorrhoids. Red streaks found through the stool are a sign of blood in the stool.

    Serious changes to your bowel movements may also be a sign of colon polyps, and at the very least warrant a doctor's visit. Constipation or diarrhea that lasts for more than a week are possible symptoms. If a large polyp is blocking bowel movements it may cause severe abdominal pain, constipation, nausea and vomiting.

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    Who Is at Risk?

    Once you reach age 50 you should have regular screenings for colon polyps. Detecting them early and having them removed is an important step for maintaining well-being and preventing colon cancer. If you have a family history of colon polyps or cancer talk to your doctor about screenings before age fifty.

    Everyone is at risk for polyps although factors such as a high-fat diet and unhealthy lifestyle habits may increase the likeliness of developing these growths. Diet, smoking, drinking and a sedentary lifestyle are all factors that you can address to lower your risk of colon polyps. To lower your risk of colon problems, eat a nutrient-rich, high-fiber diet, get regular exercise, and avoid tobacco and alcohol.

    Even if you live a healthy lifestyle and do not have a family history be sure to have regular screenings. Some people experience symptoms of colon polyps and others do not. Finding them early and having them removed you are in a good position for a healthy colon.

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    References

    National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/colonpolyps_ez/#symptoms

    Mayo Clinic, http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/colonpolyps_ez/#symptoms