What is an Adenomatous Polyp?


Image: Shutterstock/ Sebastian Kaulitzk

Adenomatous polyps are a pretty common condition where growths develop inside the colon. Most of the time, these growths are completely harmless, but sometimes, they can be an early warning sign of cancer. That’s why it’s important to know when you should be concerned about polyps.

So what exactly is an adenomatous polyp? What are the symptoms and how is it diagnosed? And what can do to treat it?

What Is An Adenomatous Polyp?

A polyp is basically a collection of cells inside the lining of the colon. Every second, your cells replicate themselves thousands of times to replace damaged cells. This replication of cells is coded inside your DNA. But sometimes, the cells begin to replicate too quickly. And when this happens, the collection of cells become a polyp.

And there are two basic categories of polyps, non-neoplastic and neoplastic. The non-neoplastic cells are ones formed by an inflammatory response instead of the rapid multiplication of cells. But neoplastic growths, like adenomatous polyps, are formed from damage to your DNA triggering rapid multiplication. Non-neoplastic polyps rarely become cancerous, because the DNA is not damaged.

But in cases of neoplastic polyps, the damaged DNA can begin to lead to the growth of damaged cells. These cells then begin to consume other cells, leading to cancer. So, neoplastic growths like adenomatous polyps can sometimes be the first sign of cancer.

Like any case of cancer, colorectal cancer from polyps goes through a series of four stages. These stages are determined by the size of the cancerous growth and how rapidly it is growing. At each stage, the odds of successful treatment drops significantly. And advanced colorectal cancer is often fatal. That’s why it’s so important to get a diagnosis as soon as possible.

Symptoms And Diagnosis

In most cases, polyps cause no obvious symptoms. And it’s possible that you can have polyps and not know until a doctor finds them in an unrelated examination of the colon. But there are a few symptoms that sometimes occur with colon polyps.

These symptoms include things like rectal bleeding when the polyps begin to bleed and the blood passes through your bowels. In addition, the blood can lead to a change in the color of their stool, making it red or black. Finally, the slow, chronic bleeding caused by polyps can slowly drain your body of the iron found in the blood, which leads to a condition called anemia. Iron plays an important role in the formation of blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. And that can lead to shortness of breath, weight loss, fatigue, and even fainting spells.

And if a polyp is large enough, it can actually obstruct the bowel, which leads to constipation and frequent abdominal pain.

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately. But even if you don’t, anyone over fifty years old, smokers, and people with a family history of polyps or colon cancer should be screened regularly.

To diagnose polyps, a doctor will perform a procedure known as a colonoscopy. Essentially, this involves inserting a long, flexible camera through the rectum and into the colon to visually inspect it for polyps.

How Can You Treat It?

If a doctor finds polyps during a colonoscopy, they will likely want to perform a biopsy. That means that they will remove a small sample of tissue from the polyp and examine it under a microscope. The cellular structure of a polyp can tell a doctor a lot about whether it’s cause for concern. They can judge what’s causing the polyp and whether it has progressed to being cancerous.

If the doctor determines that the polyp is dangerous, they will then order a surgery to remove it. The surgery itself is fairly simple. Essentially, a thin loop of wire is inserted into the colon along with a colonoscopy camera. The surgeon can then guide the loop over the polyp and tighten it until it cuts the polyp away from the wall of the colon.

In most cases, this is minimally invasive and can be performed within an hour with few side effects. Usually, this is enough to resolve the problem, but you will probably want to get follow up screening for a few years afterward to check for new polyps and ensure the old ones haven’t grown back.

So, have you suffered from colon polyps? What did you do to treat it? Do you have any advice about what to expect? Let us know in the comments.