Colonic Polyps

Information about Colonic Polyps

What is a colonic polyp?
A colonic polyp is an abnormal “growth” that develops from the inside lining (mucosa) of the colon/large bowel. There are several different types of colonic polyps. Some are benign and do not pose a risk of bowel cancer, whereas others have the potential to progress to bowel cancer.

How are colonic polyps detected?
Colonic polyps can be detected during a colonoscopy procedure. Colonoscopy is the best test to find and remove colonic polyps. Polyps may be identified when performing a colonoscopy after a positive bowel cancer screening test (faecal occult blood test), for a family history of bowel cancer, for a history of previous polyps or for other reasons.

Are there different types of colonic polyps?
There are several types of colonic polyps and each has a different appearance. These include hyperplastic polyps, serrated polyps and adenomas. Changes in the shape and appearance of these polyps are used decide on the safest and best way to remove them.

What is the management of colonic polyps?
Polyps are removed during a colonoscopy with the help of a thin wire loop called a snare. This is used to slice the tissue beneath the polyp and excise it. For larger flat polyps, the injection of a fluid cushion beneath the polyp may be used before removal. A small electrical current passing through the snare wire may be required to help remove some polyps but for most polyps this is not necessary. After polyps have been removed, the type, size and number determines if and when another colonoscopy should be performed. At GastroNorth we use safe and effective techniques to remove colonic polyps and follow the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Guidelines for polyp follow-up.

Why did I develop a colonic polyp?
Colonic polyps are common and though to affect 30-50% of adults in their lifetime. Polyps form when a number of changes in the cells of the mucosa occur. The risk of these changes is determined by genetic and environmental factors. Some patients have a family history of polyps or a syndrome that gives rise to the growth of polyps. Polyps are more likely to be develop as we get older, especially when you are over 50 years. Environmental factors that protect against polyps may include a healthy diet with plenty of fibre, fresh fruit and vegetables and little processed food. Smoking, obesity and a diet high in red meat may predispose to the development of polyps

In general, you are at higher risk of having colonic polyps if:
> you are older than 50
> you have had polyps before
> there is a family history of polyps
> there is a family history of bowel cancer
You should talk to your doctor if you fit into any of these categories.

What are the symptoms of a colonic polyp?
The majority of colonic polyps do not cause any symptoms. Most do not bleed until they are at an advanced stage. Serrated polyps secrete mucus that can contribute to diarrhoea or loose bowel actions. Occasionally very large polyps may cause abdominal cramping or discomfort.

Do my family members need testing if I have colonic polyps?
A colonoscopy may be recommended in some situations where many polyps are encountered in a close family member or if there is a strong family history of bowel cancer. In general, all people should undergo bowel cancer screening with a faecal occult blood test at age 50 and then every two years. Earlier screening may be recommended in some situations based on family history.

Australian guidelines on bowel cancer screening are currently being updated and by 2020, a screening kit will be sent to you every 2 years from the ages of 50-74. If you have any questions or concerns, you can see one of our specialists for individualized advice.

Where I can obtain more information?

Contact GastroNorth