Page 2 of 2

Colon Health – The Basics Of Polyps

Perhaps there is no better way to kick off everything than a post on colon polyps right? Not really, but they are one of those unfortunate things that everyone should be aware of. We spend so much time on the look and shape of our tummy from the outside when its health and well being is just as important on the inside. As we age the health of our colon becomes more vital. Routine exams and colonoscopies are something that no one looks forward to, but it is something to keep in mind as we get closer to 50.

“Polyp” is a term that is used to refer to a non-cancerous (benign) growth on the lining, or the inside of a mucous membrane. This includes the membranes found in the digestive tract as well as nasal passages. The mouth, bladder and uterus are other areas that can develop these abnormal protrusions. When these growths occur in the large intestines, they are referred to as colon polyps.

Heredity, abnormal cell growth and conditions like ulcerative colitis or the Crohn’s disease are some of the causes of colon polyps. The symptoms that this affliction depicts include blood stains in bowel movement, stomach cramps and fatigue. Though benign, the polyps can turn malignant (cancerous) if unattended to. While going through the discomfort of colonoscopy prep, it might be helpful to know why you are putting yourself through this colon emptying process. A clean colon is imperative for the medical professional conducting the colonoscopy to better locate and identify the presence of colon polpys. Locating and removing colon polyps is the best way of lowering one’s risk of developing colon cancer.

Colon Polyps

There are four common types of colon polyps; inflammatory, adenomatous, villous adenoma and hyperplastic. In addition, there are other less common types including lymphoid, juvenile, sessile and pedunculated. Here is a summary of all these types.

Pedunculated and Sessile Colon Polyps

The different types of colon polyps vary in terms of shapes and sizes. In terms of shape, there are two basic types; sessile and pedunculated. Pedunculated polyps are basically polyps that are attached to the membrane with a long, narrow stalk. In addition to that, they’re mushroom-like. In the contrary, sessile polyps are flat-shaped and aren’t attached to the membrane with stalks; instead they sit right on its surface.

Juvenile Colon Polyps

Just as the name suggests, juvenile colon polyps develop in children’s colons. According to Merck Manuals, the polyps grow bigger than the available blood supply and they soon die. He notes that after death, these colon polyps “auto-amputate” (fall off) right after puberty. As such, treatment is often not required but it’s often important to stem rectal bleeding if any is experienced.

Lymphoid Colon Polyps

They are also known as lymphoid hyperplasia and can affect all ages, though relatively frequent in children. They are usually soft, cover with smooth, intact, gray mucosa and may appear as a single polyp or multiple polyps.

Common Types of Colon Polyps

Inflammatory Colon Polyps

Just as the name implies, this type of colon polyps are often found in people who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, (IBD). They are also referred to as pseudopolyps, meaning false polyps, because they are not polyps in true sense. Instead, they are a reaction to the inflammation in the large intestine. The American Cancer Society explains that the polyps are generally non-cancerous and thus rarely cause any problems, but the IBD (Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease) associated with the polyps, increase the chances of colon cancer.

Adenomatous Colon Polyps

They are also known as adenomas and are often caused by DNA changes. Adenomas are undoubtedly the most common polyp type as they affect approximately 70% of the patients suffering from colon polyps. These polyps are malignant and can thus develop into cancer and the process takes approximately ten years. If the polyps occur in multiples, there is a higher chance of one becoming malignant.

Villous and Tubulovillous Adenomatous

Adenomatous colon polyps are further divided into three categories; Tubular, villous and tubulovillous. Tubular adenomatous polyps can develop anywhere in the large intestines and can be pedunculated or sessile. Villous adenomatous polyps on the other hand are large, with a cauliflower look. They are the worst types as they are associated with high morbidity and mortality rates. Tubulovillous on the other hand are often found in the distal colon. As mentioned before, the higher the amount of villous component, the higher the chance of malignancy.

Hyperplastic Colon Polyps

The term “hyperplastic” refers to the abnormal activity of cells creating the polyp. The cells in a hyperplastic polyp increase in number and thus enlarge the area. The polyps formed are often small, round, sessile and are generally created from epithelial cells. Though the polyps are reproducing and growing, they have a lower risk of being malignant but to people who have a family history with cancer cases, then the chances of colon cancer increase drastically.

We can also categorize colon polyps depending on the type of cells they are made of. Under this criterion, the polyps can either be non-neoplastic or neoplastic. While non-neoplastic polyps are unlikely to become malignant, neoplastic polyps are likely to develop into colon cancer. Fortunately, there are effective ways of detecting and removing the polyps before they become life-threatening, such as having regular colonoscopy exams.