Anal Polyps: Are They A Sign Of Colorectal Cancer?

    Anal Polyps: Are They A Sign Of Colorectal Cancer?

    The colon and rectum are two areas where uncontrolled cell growth can result in anal polyps. Healthy cells grow and divide in an orderly manner, but mutations in specific genes can cause cells to continue dividing even when new cells are not required.

    An anal polyp or colon polyp is a growth on the inner lining of the colon (large intestine) or rectum. It can be flat, slightly raised (called sessile), or on a stalk (called pedunculated). There are various microscopic types of polyps (which require a microscope to determine). Certain adenomas or sessile serrated polyps can eventually grow over time and turn into colon cancer.

    Risk and Causes

    Genetic changes that disrupt the typical cell cycle of the colon’s lining cells are the cause of polyp development. Numerous factors, such as your diet, lifestyle, advanced age, gender, and genetic or hereditary disorders, may increase the risk or rate of these changes.

    Adenomatous polyps are common, occurring in up to 25% of people over 50 in the United States. They are found in about 30% of adults over the age of 45–50. Men and women of all ethnic backgrounds are at risk of colon polyps and colon cancer. Race, gender, smoking, and obesity are some other risk factors.

    Important lifestyle factors that increase your risk of developing colorectal polyps and cancer include:

    • Smoking
    • Excessive alcohol consumption
    • Lack of exercise
    • Not eating a healthy diet

    Signs of Colon Polyps

    Blood can appear as red streaks in your stool or make it appear black. However, tool color changes can also be caused by specific foods, medications, or dietary supplements. Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea that lasts longer than a week, may be an indication of a larger colon polyp or cancer.

    The majority of colon polyps and early, curable colorectal cancer do not cause symptoms. However, when they do, they may include:

    • Bleeding from the rectum, which can be seen with the naked eye or detected microscopically by fecal blood test
    • Unexplained iron deficiency anemia
    • Unexplained weight loss
    • Change in iodine levels

    People who report higher levels of stress also report higher levels of smoking, poor diet, and low physical activity, all of which have been linked to the formation of colon polyps. These stress-related factors may have an impact on colon polyp development.

    Colon polyps: How are they identified?

    A colonoscopy is a procedure wherein a trained medical professional examines your rectum and colon using a long, flexible, narrow tube called a colonoscope. This has a light and tiny camera on one end. In addition to polyps and cancer, a colonoscopy can also reveal inflamed and swollen tissue, ulcers, and polyps.

    During a colonoscopy, a long, thin, flexible tube is inserted into the large intestine through the rectum and equipped with a camera that displays images on a screen and enables the removal of polyps.

    Sigmoidoscopy: An examination of the final third of the large intestine is performed by inserting a thin, flexible tube via the rectum (sigmoid colon).

    CT Scan: Using radiation, a medical procedure called a computed tomography (CT) scan creates images of the large intestine.

    Stool tests: If the stool sample you send to the lab is positive for blood or genetic abnormalities that could indicate polyps and cancer, a colonoscopy is required.

    In order to examine for and remove polyps, a colonoscopy should be performed if any of the most recent tests reveal abnormalities.

    Can colon polyps be avoided?

    A few lifestyle changes may also be helpful, and routine screenings can dramatically reduce your risk of developing colon polyps and colorectal cancer:

    • Learn how to live a healthy lifestyle
    • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
    • Keep your fat intake to a minimum
    • Don’t drink too much and don’t smoke
    • Exercise—at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity, as well as two sessions of muscular strengthening
    • Consume three to five servings of fruit and vegetables daily
    • Avoid eating too much red meat and fatty foods
    • Low-dose aspirin used every day has been found to reduce colon polyps and cancer. However, aspirin can have side effects. Consult your doctor first.

    Key Takeaway

    Most colorectal cancers start as a growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. These growths are called polyps. Some types of polyps can turn into cancer over time (usually many years). However, not all polyps become cancer. A polyp can take as many as 10 to 15 years to develop into cancer. With screening, doctors can find and remove polyps before they have the chance to turn into cancer.

    Learn more about Colorectal Cancer here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Danielle Vitan, MD

    General Practitioner


    Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Oct 17, 2022

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