Why are colon polyps removed?

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Colon polyps are removed in order to prevent invasive colon cancer. The goal is to remove or eradicate the precancerous lesion from the colon, whether that's by removal or ablation, meaning burning it away. It should be done safely with minimizing complications. Then appropriate surveillance is necessary, meaning once the polyp is removed, doctors want to make sure that it's all gone in the future, and other polyps should they occur are also removed. Once a polyp is discovered, especially a large one, there is a somewhat elevated risk for developing polyps into the future. So, surveillance is crucial.

There are many types of colon polyps, although the polyps you commonly hear about are called adenomatous polyps. These polyps have the potential to grow slowly over years and become cancers. Adenomatous polyps can be safely and quickly removed at the time of a colonoscopy. Removing these types of polyps can prevent cancers from forming.

If a person is found to have adenomatous colon polyps, it is important to have regular and frequent colonoscopies to remove additional or newly formed polyps.

The transition from polyp to cancer is a gradual one, so we do sometimes see what we call cancerous polyps. They are on the edge between a polyp and an invasive cancer. By removing these polyps through colonoscopy, we have cured the patient of that cancer.

Melissa Shields, RN
Nursing Specialist

All colon cancers start as polyps. Having polyps removed during colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy prevents the polyp from turning into a cancer.

Continue Learning about Colon Cancer Prevention

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.