Colon Polyps

Colon polyps are growths that form on the inner lining of the large intestine (colon) or rectum. Most polyps are benign (not cancerous). But over time, some polyps can become malignant (cancerous) when cells begin growing abnormally, invading more of the colon and rectum. To be safe, it is recommended that all colon and rectal polyps be removed and tested to identify cancer and help prevent it from ever forming.

Board certified colon and rectal surgeons at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) offer advanced, minimally invasive surgery approaches for patients with colon polyps, such as polypectomy and colectomy to surgically remove colon polyps, and transanal endoscopic microsurgery (TEMS) to remove rectal polyps.

Though most people do not have symptoms of colon polyps, you may experience rectal bleeding and blood in your stool. Anyone can get polyps, but if you are older than age 50, have a family history of polyps or colon cancer or have inflammatory bowel disease, you may be at increased risk. Learn more about screening for colon polyps.

Colon Polyps Topics

Screening for Colon Polyps

Beginning at age 50, men and women should follow one of these examination schedules:

  • Fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical test every year
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years
  • Double-contrast barium enema every five years
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years

People with colorectal cancer risk factors should begin screening procedures at an earlier age and/or be screened more often.

Learn more about colon cancer screening.

Learn about the Center for Community Health and Health Equity (CCHHE) colorectal screening program.

Watch this colon cancer screening video.

Diagnosis of Colon Polyps

Your surgeon will ask about your health history, your family’s history of cancer and any risk factors. Diagnostic test may include:

Watch this video of a colonoscopy.

Watch this video of a sigmoidoscopy.

Treatment for Colon Polyps

Colon and rectal surgeons at BWH remove colon polyps with the following minimally invasive surgical techniques:

Surgical Treatment

Polypectomy is the removal of a polyp during a colonoscopy, using a wire loop passed through a colonoscope. The wire loop severs the polyp from the colon using an electric current. Polyp tissue is sent for further examination (biopsy).

  • Colectomy, also known as a colorectal resection, is the surgical removal (resection) of part or all of the large intestine. Some polyps in the rectum are amenable to transanal excision. Minimally invasive removal may be possible using transanal endoscopic microsurgery (TEMS), or if within reach, via traditional techniques.
  • Proctocolectomy If you have a rare inherited syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), you may need surgery to remove your colon and rectum.

Read these instructions about magnesium citrate bowel preparation prior to surgery.

Watch this video of colon cancer screening.

What You Should Expect

You will receive a thorough diagnostic examination to evaluate if you have colon polyps and if surgery is needed. Careful monitoring and the involvement of an experienced colon and rectal surgeon are important to the successful outcome for patients with colorectal conditions.

If you are having surgery or a procedure, you will likely be scheduled for a visit to the Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation for pre-operative information and tests.

The day of surgery, you will be taken care of in the operating room by surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in colon polyp surgery. After surgery, you will go to the post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by an experienced surgical and nursing staff.

Learn more about your hospital stay and returning home.

Multidisciplinary Care

Brigham and Women’s Hospital provides a multidisciplinary approach to patient care, collaborating with colleagues who have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating colon polyps. In addition, patients have full access to BWH’s world-renowned academic medical community with its diverse specialists and state-of-the-art facilities.

Resources

Go to our health library to learn more about colon polyp screening.

Visit the Kessler Health Education Library in the Bretholtz Center for Patients and Families to access computers and knowledgeable staff.

Visit the Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation.

Access a complete directory of patient and family services.

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