How are bowel polyps treated?
If you are diagnosed with a bowel (colonic) polyp, you will usually be advised to have it removed, even if it is not causing any symptoms. This is because there is a small risk of the polyp developing into a cancerous (malignant) growth at some time in the future.
Most bowel polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy. The colonoscope has a side channel down which a grabbing device can be passed. This device can be manipulated by the operator. The operator can therefore see and also remove a polyp during a colonoscopy. The removal of the polyp is usually painless. Once removed, the polyp is sent to the laboratory to be looked at under a microscope. This is done to check:
- That it has been completely removed.
- The type of polyp.
- Whether it is non-cancerous (benign) or showing signs of cancerous (malignant) change.
Most removed polyps will show full removal and be totally benign.
Your doctor will advise on the need for follow-up. This may depend on factors such as the size of the polyp, the exact type of polyp that has been removed, the laboratory report about the polyp, and your age. Once these factors are considered, some people are advised to have regular colonoscopies in the future to make sure no more bowel polyps develop.
Do I need surgery?
If you have many polyps (especially if you have a polyposis syndrome) then you may need to have an operation to remove part of your bowel. This is because it isn't possible to completely remove all the polyps by using colonoscopy.
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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