A colonic polyp is a protrusion in the lining of the bowel caused by an abnormal production of cells. It may be a tiny raised area; it may look like a grape or take the form of many tiny projections clustered together. Polyps are very common (occurring in 15-20% of the population) and most are not cancerous. Polyps should be removed if found as some may eventually (over many years) become a cancer in the colon (large bowel) or rectum (back passage).

Symptoms of colonic polyps

Most people are unaware of having polyps as they usually produce no symptoms and are often an incidental finding. Some polyps can however cause rectal bleeding or an excess production of mucus (slime) with bowel motions. Polyps are usually found as a result of bowel investigations - such as a sigmoidoscopy or barium enema. If they are found colonoscopy is required to view the whole of the large bowel and remove the polyp(s).

Treatments for colonic polyps

The most common method of removal is by:

  1. Snaring the polyp during a colonoscopy (painlessly cutting the polyp off with a heated wire).
  2. Hot biopsying removes the polyp by touching it with an electric probe (this is also painless).
  3. In a few cases, an operation is required to remove part of the bowel if the polyp is very large.

Some people will require further colonoscopies because polyps can recur. Mr Tsavellas follows The British Society of Gastroenterology guidelines with regards to polyp surveillance.

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