Bowel (colonic) polyps are small non-cancerous (benign) growths on the inside lining of the bowel (colon and rectum).
How common are they?
Bowel polyps are really common in older people. About 1 in 4 people over the age of 50 years develop at least one colonic polyp. Bowel polyps are much less common in younger people.
Some people develop just one bowel polyp. It is not uncommon to have two or more. However, having more than five polyps is unusual.
What are the symptoms?
Most people with one or more bowel polyps do not have any symptoms. Most people who have a bowel polyp will never know they have one. Sometimes a polyp will be found when you have a faecal occult blood test to see whether you have any bleeding from your bowel.
However, some people with bowel polyps will get symptoms. These symptoms include blood in the stools (faeces). There may also be mucus in the stools.
A bowel polyp may cause diarrhoea or constipation but this is much less likely than blood in the stools. Diarrhoea or constipation is much more likely to have a cause other than a bowel polyp.
Further reading and references
Colonoscopic polypectomy and endoscopic mucosal resection: A practical guide; British Society of Gastroenterology (2008)
Guidelines for colorectal cancer screening and surveillance in moderate and high risk groups; British Society of Gastroenterology (May 2010 update from 2002)
Colonoscopic surveillance for prevention of colorectal cancer in people with ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease or adenomas; NICE Clinical Guideline (March 2011)
Combined endoscopic and laparoscopic removal of colonic polyps; NICE Interventional Procedure Guidance, September 2014
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