Polyps are benign growths (noncancerous) in the lining of your gastrointestinal tract. They occur most commonly in the colon specifically. Polyps vary in size and are common among adults - more so as you get older.
A definitive cause of polyps is not known, but some research indicates high fat/low fiber diets and genetics may play a role in development. The most common known risk factors for developing polyps are age (over 50 years old), family history and your risk is also higher if you have had polyps previously. Rare genetic syndromes that cause polyps and/or cancer also exist and may result in polyp development in early age.
Polyps rarely cause symptoms. Large polyps occasionally cause bleeding; however most have no symptoms at all. The most effective way to find and remove polyps is with a screening colonoscopy. Most polyps found during colonoscopy can be removed and sent to a pathologist for evaluation. Other methods of screening, such as stool testing and CT enterography are available, but none are as accurate at detecting polyps as colonoscopy.
Polyps are generally described as hyperplastic or adenomatous. Hyperplastic polyps do not carry a risk for developing colon cancer. Adenomatous polyps can develop into cancer if not removed. Larger adenomatous polyps are more likely to develop into cancer than small polyps. Because no way exists to determine which polyps will form cancer, your physician will remove any polyps found during colonoscopy.
Depending on the findings of your colonoscopy and type of polyps (if any) found, your physician may recommend a repeat procedure in 3-5 years to check for redevelopment of polyps.