Colon polyps often cause no symptoms. You might not even know you have a polyp until your doctor finds it during an examination of your bowel. Sometimes, however, you may have signs and symptoms such as:
- Rectal bleeding. You might notice bright red blood on toilet paper after you've had a bowel movement. Although this may be a sign of colon polyps or colon cancer, rectal bleeding can indicate other conditions, such as hemorrhoids or minor tears (fissures) in your anus. You should discuss any rectal bleeding with your doctor.
- Blood in your stool. Blood can show up as red streaks in your stool or make bowel movements appear black. Still, a change in color doesn't always indicate a problem — iron supplements and some anti-diarrhea medications can make stools black, whereas beets and red licorice can turn stools red. Always discuss any rectal bleeding with your doctor.
- Constipation, diarrhea or narrowing of the stool. Although a change in bowel habits that lasts longer than a week may indicate the presence of a large colon polyp, it can also result from a number of other conditions.
- Pain or obstruction. Sometimes a large colon polyp may partially obstruct your bowel, leading to crampy abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and severe constipation.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you notice the following signs and symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in your stool
- A change in your bowel habits that lasts longer than a week
You should be screened regularly for polyps if:
Jul. 16, 2011
- You're age 50 or older
- You have risk factors, such as a family history of colon cancer — in some cases, high-risk individuals should begin regular screening much earlier than age 50
- Polyps of the colon and rectum. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/sec02/ch021/ch021g.html#sec02-ch021-ch021e-1467. Accessed May 23, 2011.
- What I need to know about colon polyps. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/colonpolyps_ez/. Accessed May 23, 2011.
- Colorectal cancer prevention and treatment. American Gastroenterological Association. http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/digestive-conditions/AGAPatientBrochure_ColorectalCancer.pdf. Accessed May 23, 2011.
- Ahnen DJ, et al. Approach to the patient with colonic polyps. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed May 23, 2011.
- Detailed guide: Colorectal cancer. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003096-pdf.pdf. Accessed May 23, 2011.
- Torpy JM, et al. Colon polyps. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2008;300:1480.
- Itkowitz SH, et al. Colonic polyps and polyposis syndromes. In: Feldman M, et al. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-6189-2..X0001-7--TOP&isbn=978-1-4160-6189-2&about=true&uniqId=229935664-2192. Accessed May 25, 2011.
- Ahnen DJ, et al. Colorectal cancer: Epidemiology, risk factors, and protective factors. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed May 23, 2011.
- Tolliver KA, et al. Colonoscopic polypectomy. Gastroenterology Clinics of North America. 2008;37:229.
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