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Colon Polyps

Colon polyps are growths in the colon (or large intestine), most of which are not cancerous (benign). Having a colonoscopy—a test that looks at the inner lining of the colon—helps determine which polyps may be more likely to develop into colon cancer and should be removed for further investigation.

Gastroenterologists and colorectal surgeons at WakeMed are highly experienced at screening patients for colon polyps and perform colonoscopies for thousands of patients every year.

What Are the Symptoms of Colon Polyps?

Many patients will have no symptoms, and polyps are either discovered through a routine colonoscopy or other examination of the colon. Some patients do experience symptoms, however, which can include:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Red or black stool
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Changes in bowel habits (including either constipation or diarrhea)

Risk factors for developing colon polyps include:

  • Age (most people are over age 50)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Tobacco and alcohol use
  • Obesity
  • Uncontrolled type 2 diabetes
  • Race: African-Americans are at a higher risk of developing colon polyps and colon cancer

How Do You Diagnose Colon Polyps?

If you have the symptoms above, especially if they last for more than a week, you should consult one of our gastroenterologists.

We also recommend regular screening for colon polyps if you’re over 50 years old, or have a family history of colon cancer.

Screening for colon polyps is generally done through a colonoscopy, which is an outpatient procedure. A day before, patients are advised to eat a special diet and drink, which will help to clean the colon.

Patients are lightly sedated during the colonoscopy. In WakeMed’s endoscopy suite, the gastroenterologist inserts a thin, flexible endoscope that travels throughout the colon and intestines, showing the lower digestive tract. Gas is pumped into the colon to allow for a better view. If a polyp is found, the gastroenterologist can remove it for evaluation.

The procedure usually takes 20 to 60 minutes. However, patients should plan on two to three hours for waiting, preparation and recovery. After the procedure, most patients can eat as normal.

Learn more about what to expect during a colonoscopy.

How Do You Treat Colon Polyps?

Colon polyps can usually be removed during the colonoscopy itself, by the gastroenterologist performing the procedure. The polyps may be sent for further testing to confirm whether they are benign or whether they need further investigation.

Sometimes, surgeons may use laparoscopy to remove large or cancerous polyps.

Make an Appointment

If you or someone you care for is experiencing worrisome symptoms, we encourage you to make an appointment with one of our pediatric gastroenterologists, adult gastroenterologists or colorectal surgeons.