Bleeding colon polyps with colon cancer

What Do Bleeding Colon Polyps Mean?6 min read

When polyps in the colon are large enough, they can cause rectal bleeding. Bleeding colon polyps can be a symptom of colon cancer or an indicator that precancerous polyps are present.

However, in the vast majority of cases, polyps aren’t malignant. Also, rectal bleeding in itself isn’t a cause for alarm and is relatively common among healthy adults [1].

What it is, is a red flag that something is going on with the body that should be identified and addressed. Bleeding colon polyps isn’t something that should be ignored.

This article explains what polyps are, why they bleed, and what it means if you have colon polyps that are bleeding.

What Are Colon Polyps?

Colon polyps are growths that form on the lining of the colon. While colon polyps are common, these clumps of abnormal cells can develop in other areas of the body, including the rectum, stomach, and uterus [2]. All of these types of polyps can become cancerous.

Are All Bleeding Polyps Cancerous?

If you notice blood in your stool, it’s possible the bleeding is caused by a polyp in the colon or rectum – although other possible causes such as constipation and hemorrhoids are more likely [1].

But having bleeding colon polyps doesn’t mean you definitely have cancer. It simply means the polyp is large enough to irritate tissue and expose tiny blood vessels. When these blood vessels are located in the lower part of the colon or the rectum, there could be visible blood in the stool.

There are different types of polyps and only some are known to become cancerous. The two main categories of colon polyps are non-neoplastic and neoplastic [3].

  • Non-neoplastic polyps are not cancerous.
  • Neoplastic polyps – which include adenomas (the most common type of neoplastic polyp) and serrated polyps – can become cancerous over time.

But even with adenomas, the risk of developing cancer is low when the polyp is still small.

How Polyp Size Relates to Cancer Risk

Clinical research shows that colon cancer risk is extremely low in adenomas that are smaller than 5 mm or smaller [4]. However, if they have enough time to grow, the likeliness of becoming cancerous increases. A neoplastic polyp measuring between 6 and 10 mm is 7.2 times more likely to become malignant than one that’s 5 mm or smaller. Once it grows between 11 and 20 mm, it’s 12.7 times more likely to become cancer.

How Doctors Treat Bleeding Colon Polyps

If a colon polyp is large enough to cause bleeding, it might need to be removed.

When a GI specialist finds a polyp that’s suspected of being precancerous, they’ll recommend removing it during a colonoscopy or surgery. Doing this can dramatically reduce the risk of having a negative outcome from colon cancer – removal of precancerous adenomas can reduce the mortality rate of colorectal cancer by 53% [4].

When left alone, a non-malignant adenoma might continue growing, which can lead to problems with bleeding and abdominal pain. It also might become cancerous. Researchers have found that the typical timeframe from adenomatous polyp formation to the onset of colon cancer is 10 to 15 years, although cancer can develop much faster if someone is genetically predisposed to colon cancer [5].

Who Is at Risk for Developing Cancerous Colon Polyps?

People of any age can develop polyps of the colon, including children. In the United States, about one-third of adults over the age of 50 have colon or rectal polyps. Lesions on the colon are very rare in younger people – about 6% of children are affected by colon polyps, and they’re always benign [6].

For the most part, polyps in adults under age 40 – even bleeding colon polyps – aren’t cancerous. For men and women under age 40, the risk of developing colon or rectal cancer is 0.06%.

The risk increases to 0.88% in men and 0.69% in women for the 40 to 59 age group [7]. From 60 to 65 years of age, the incidence of colon cancer ranges from 15 to 20 out of every 100,000 individuals, and at 75, it’s 40 to 50 cases for every 100,000 individuals [5].

What Percentage of Bleeding Polyps Are Cancerous?

It’s estimated that 5% to 10% of all polyps become cancerous [2]. As colon polyps that bleed tend to be larger in size – and larger adenomas are associated with increased cancer risk [4] – it’s always a good idea to have bleeding polyps checked out by a physician to find out if they might be cancerous or precancerous.

Can Polyps Go Away on Their Own?

Some polyps will dissolve on their own and cause no further issues [3]. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore signs of a colon polyp, especially if you’re at a higher risk of colon cancer because of your age, family history, or lifestyle habits like smoking, excessive drinking, and lack of exercise.

The problem is that an individual with polyps might not experience any symptoms, which means they can have a polyp develop into cancer without realizing it.

Also, not all colon polyps bleed. And even when they do bleed, the individual might not notice any visible signs of blood. That’s why it’s important to be aware of other symptoms, such as abdominal pain and changes in your bowel habits that last for more than a week.

What to Do if You Might Have Bleeding Colon Polyps

If you’re concerned about colon polyps, make an appointment with your doctor right away. A physician can determine if they should be removed to prevent cancer from developing.

If you find out you have colon cancer, you can benefit from both conventional and alternative cancer treatments. Traditional treatment methods like surgery and chemotherapy can help to remove the cancer, while holistic cancer treatments can support the body’s healing process and reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.

Find out more about how you can help your body heal with holistic medicine – contact Brio Medical today.

References for bleeding colon polyps:

[1] Talley, N J, and M Jones. “Self-reported rectal bleeding in a United States community: prevalence, risk factors, and health care seeking.” The American journal of gastroenterology vol. 93,11 (1998): 2179-83. doi:10.1111/j.1572-0241.1998.00530.x

[2] Cleveland Clinic medical professional. “Cancerous Polyps.” Cleveland Clinic, February 25, 2022, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/22453-cancerous-polyps#possible-causes.

[3] Mayo Clinic Staff. “Colon Polyps.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, July 20, 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/colon-polyps/symptoms-causes/syc-20352875.

[4] Tanaka, Shinji et al. “Evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for management of colorectal polyps.” Journal of gastroenterology vol. 56,4 (2021): 323-335. doi:10.1007/s00535-021-01776-1

[5] Wilson, Joanne A P. “Colon cancer screening in the elderly: when do we stop?.” Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association vol. 121 (2010): 94-103.

[6] Meseeha, Marcelle, and Maximos Attia. “Colon Polyps.” NIH National Library of MedicineStatPearls Publishing, May 10,2022, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430761/.

[7] Jemal, Ahmedin et al. “Cancer statistics, 2003.” CA: a cancer journal for clinicians vol. 53,1 (2003): 5-26. doi:10.3322/canjclin.53.1.5

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