The colon is an important part of the digestive system. It is the last portion of this complex system, responsible for the vital extraction of salt and water from solid waste, prior to excretion. The human colon comprises four sections. They are identified as the ascending, transverse, descending, and the sigmoid segments. The development of polyps or abnormal tissue growth within the colon is commonly observed in people who are overweight. Colon polyps are also observed in people who extensively indulge in smoking, a diet plan that is high in fat and low in fiber, as well as those who have a family history of the condition.
Colon polyps are the result of abnormal cell growth. These cells do not grow and divide in an orderly way like their healthy counterparts. Instead they cause mutations in genes and keep dividing without the need for new cells. Small or sessile polyps are usually attached to a stalk. They are identified as adenomatous, hyperplastic, or inflammatory. Polyps in the colon can result in rectal bleeding, irritable bowel syndrome, severe pain in the abdomen, and colon cancer, if neglected. Smoking and alcohol abuse significantly increase the risk of developing polyps of a malignant nature.
A sedentary lifestyle is yet another trigger factor. It not only exposes you to the health issues that accompany obesity, but also increases the time period for which solid waste remains within the colon, encouraging the development of polyps. Inherited gene mutations, familial adenomatous polyposis, Gardner's syndrome, and HNPCC or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer are other colon polyp triggers. The development of the condition can be prevented with the help of the following measures:
- A diet plan rich in calcium and calcium supplements
- Use of a colon cleanse
- Intake of foods that are high in fiber and low in fat to maintain optimum digestive health
- Moderation of alcohol consumption
- Smoking cessation
- Weight control
- Dedicated hormone therapy
The symptoms of polyps in the colon include:
- Presence of red streaks in the stool or black stool indicates polyps in the colon. Though this could also result from the intake of iron supplements and anti-diarrhea medication, it is best to rule the presence of colon polyps out via clinical analysis.
- Rectal bleeding during a bowel movement indicates the presence of colon polyps. However, the condition could also be the outcome of hemorrhoids and/or anal fissures. Nevertheless, once noticed, it is best to bring the presence of blood during defecating to the attention of the family physician.
- A sudden change in the bowel habits, especially if it persists beyond a week, is also indicative of the presence of a colon polyp.
The other symptoms that indicate the presence and development of the condition include obstructed bowel movements that are also painful, abdominal cramps, constipation, nausea, and vomiting.
Colon polyps can be treated if diagnosed in time. There are dedicated clinical processes in place, such as colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy that target the polyp stalk to stop further development, polypectomy or polyp removal, and a number of laparoscopic techniques. Another procedure is that of proctocolectomy in which the entire colon is removed. The process involves a procedure that is clinically referred to as ileal pouch-anal anastomosis. In this procedure, the surgeon constructs a pouch out of the ileum or end of the small intestine and attaches it to the anus.