What are polyps?
Polyps are abnormal growths that arise from the cells lining the bowel. Pedunculated polyps are attached to the bowel wall with a stalk, while sessile polyps have a broad base and protrude directly from the lining of the bowel. Whilst most polyps are benign, they often have the potential to become malignant (cancerous) if left untreated.
What are the symptoms of polyps?
Most polyps produce no symptoms and often are found incidentally during endoscopy or imaging of the bowel. However some polyps can produce bleeding, mucousal discharge, alteration in bowel function or rarely abdominal pain.
How are polyps diagnosed?
Diagnosis of colonic polyps is by colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy or CT-colonography (also known as ‘virtual colonoscopy’). Research has demonstrated that removal of polyps dramatically reduces the incidence of subsequent colon cancer.
What is polypectomy?
Polypectomy is the medical term for removing polyps. Small polyps can be removed by an instrument called a biopsy forceps, which snips off small pieces of tissue. Larger polyps are usually removed by putting a noose, or snare, around the polyp base and burning through the tissue with an electric current. Neither of these procedures is painful and you will usually not be aware that they are being done. Rarely a polyp is too large to be removed by colonoscopy and requires surgery for removal.
Polypectomy is very safe, but all procedures entail some risks, which you should discuss with your endoscopist. Potential serious complications of polypectomy include bleeding and perforation (creating a hole in the colon), however they are rare. Bleeding can usually be controlled by colonoscopy, during which the bleeding site is cauterized, although surgery is sometimes required. Surgery is usually required for perforation. Other complications have been described but occur much less frequently.
You should follow your endoscopist’s instructions carefully following polypectomy, you may be advised to not take certain blood-thinning or anti-inflammatory drugs for a defined period after the polypectomy. In addition, you will be informed about how to find out the results of the tissue analysis of your polyps and if a repeat examination should be performed.