What are intestinal polyps, how fast do they grow, do they implicate a risk for colorectal cancer ?

Intestinal polyps (adenomas) are a protrusion of the large bowel mucosa, which usually develop over a couple of years. Almost half of all people beyond 70 years have intestinal polyps. Principially they are harmless, however they tend to grow and can even develop to a carcinoma. The larger the adenoma, the higher the risk for the development of cancer. If the size is lower than 1 cm, the likelyhood is in the range of 1%, in case they are larger than 2 cm, the risk increases up to 50%.

According to these facts, polyps should be routinely removed (polypectomy). This is usually done during a colonoscopy session with a loop or a biopsy forceps. This intervention is entirely pain free, because the examination and polypectomy are being performed during a short anaesthesia. Depending on the histological result, a control colonoscopy should be performed after 2-3 years in order to rule out a polyp recurrence.

Intestinal polyps usually do not cause any symptoms, rarely they can bleed, produce mucus, and cause diarrhea or constipation.

Since intestinal polyps -as previously mentionned- usually remain asymptomatic but can represent the precursor of a malignant tumor, the role of a prevantative colonoscopy is so important. Every person with 50 years, even without intestinal symptoms, should undergo this examination. In case of normal findings, the colonoscopy should be repeated every 10 years. Today, routinely a „gentle colonoscopy“ with sedoanalgesia is being performed. This means use of a mild anaesthesia, which makes you fall asleep during the entire duration of the examination (20-40 minutes). Already ½ an hour after the colonoscopy you are fit again and can go home.

Risk factors for the developement of intestinal polyps:

  • Older age
  • Overweight
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Abuse of alcohol and nicotine, unhealty diet
  • Blood sugar disease (diabetes mellitus typ II)
  • Genetic predisposition / hereditary intestinal disorders