Colorectal polyps are clumps of cells that form on the lining of the colon or rectum. They are quite common and often do not cause symptoms. However, almost all cancers in the colon and rectum develop from a polyp, so when they are found they are removed. A colonoscopy is an endoscopy procedure that can identify these growths in the colon and rectum. Your gastroenterologist will take a tissue sample (biopsy) or remove the polyp completely to determine if it is cancerous. For more information about colorectal polyps, or to schedule an appointment, call (206) 223-2319.
Symptoms of Colorectal Polyps
Symptoms of colon or rectal polyps can include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Abdominal pain
- A change in bowel habits
Diagnosing and Treating Colon or Rectal Polyps
Colon or rectal polyps may be discovered incidentally during a colonoscopy screening or may be diagnosed when symptoms warrant having a diagnostic colonoscopy. With instruments inserted through the colonoscope, your gastroenterologist is able to view and remove both small and large polyps from the colon and rectum. Smaller polyps are removed with a device called a biopsy forceps. Larger polyps are snared with an instrument that looks like a noose and are then removed by electrical cautery, which does not cause you pain. Patients who have many polyps in the colon may have surgery instead to remove a portion of the colon.
Virtual colonoscopy: pluses and minuses
A procedure called "virtual colonoscopy" has gained in popularity over the past several years but patients need to be aware of what this procedure can and cannot do before choosing it over traditional colonoscopy.
A virtual colonoscopy is performed using a CT (computerized tomographic) scan that is rotated around the body. Patients are not sedated, and images are viewed on a computer screen rather than directly through a colonoscope inserted into the rectum and colon. In most instances, patients still need to go through colon preparation to cleanse the bowel before the procedure. And, if a polyp is identified, it cannot be sampled or removed. Only a traditional colonoscopy procedure will allow your gastroenterologist to remove a polyp for further study.