Understanding Polyps and Their Treatment What are Colon Polyps?

Colon polyps are small cell clusters that grow along the rectum or large intestine lining, also called the colon. Some polyps grow flat along the colon’s lining; others grow on a stalk and have a mushroom-type appearance. The risk of developing colon cancer increases with the growth of a polyp, which can range in diameter from less than one-quarter inch to several inches. During a colonoscopy, our doctors at Manhattan Gastroenterology can find polyps and remove them simultaneously, decreasing the chance of them becoming cancers. If you have had a personal or family history of polyps, you should discuss it with your gastroenterologist when you are due for your next colonoscopy.

Types of Colon Polyps

There are two common types of colon polyps: hyperplastic and adenoma. Hyperplastic polyps begin and remain benign; this type does not become cancerous. However, while not all adenomatous polyps become cancerous, all colon cancers originate with an adenoma. The likelihood of an adenoma containing cancerous cells increases with the size of the polyp. Doctors cannot identify the type of polyp without a microscope, so they strongly recommend the removal of all polyps found during an examination.

Risk Factors of Polyps

The most significant risk associated with polyps is the potential for a benign polyp to grow cancerous. The risk of malignancy grows with the size of the polyp, so early detection and removal remain a person’s best means of avoiding colon cancer.

Causes of Polyps

The exact cause of colon polyps is unknown despite their common occurrence, but certain factors may increase the probability of polyp development:

  • Age
  • Family and Personal History: A family history of polyps increases the risk factor in individuals, and individuals who have previously developed the growths have an increased chance of recurrent growths.
  • Alcohol and Tobacco Use: Smoking and excessive drinking contribute to colon polyp development.
  • Diet: Polyp formation occurs more frequently in people who follow high-fat, low-fiber diets than those who follow low-fat, high-fiber diets.

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Symptoms of Polyps

People with colon polyps often experience no symptoms and remain unaware of their presence until a doctor’s examination. Occasionally, however, symptoms occur, and our gastrology doctors should adequately address them for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Finding Polyps

Doctors employ several techniques to screen patients for polyps.


Gastroenterologists use a slender, flexible tube with a miniscule video camera to examine the rectum and entire colon called a colonoscope. This method has a preference for two reasons: It most accurately discovers polyps, and doctors can remove polyps while examining. Colonoscopy is the gold standard for diagnosis. Other options, such as imaging for detection polyps, are not the gold standard. Please discuss your options with your gastroenterologist during your consultation.

Removing Polyps

Doctors remove the majority of polyps during a colonoscopy using a snare technique: They use a wire loop that cuts and cauterizes. For smaller growths, we can use an electric current to burn the polyp. Large or inaccessible polyps may require surgery if we can’t remove them during a colonoscopy. Although highly uncommon, polyps’ removal can result in bleeding or colon perforation. Simple cauterization corrects bleeding, but you might require surgery to fix perforations.

Follow-Up Colonoscopies

The frequency of follow-up colonoscopies varies according to various factors, including the type, size, and a number of previous polyps and how well a doctor can see the colon’s surface. Clear viewing of the colon depends upon the quality of the colon cleanse before the procedure. Follow-ups may also have to do with your personal history and family history as well. Please discuss the follow-up period after your colonoscopy with your gastroenterologist to ensure you are on schedule and avoid complications.

At Manhattan Gastroenterology, we offer state-of-the-art gastroenterology care and colonoscopy services.  Our doctors are expert gastroenterologists and will provide a thorough consultation and physical examination to arrive at an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.  Please call our offices for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Updated on Oct 16, 2023 by Dr. Shawn Khodadadian (Gastroenterologist) of Manhattan Gastroenterology