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Colon polyps arise from a genetic abnormality in the lining of the large intestine. There are many types of polyps, ranging from benign to pre-malignant. Some polyps may turn into cancer if not removed, underscoring the importance of appropriate evaluation by a specialized physician.
Most of the time, polyps are asymptomatic. They may cause non-specific symptoms such as bleeding, mucous discharge from the anus or abdominal pain. Many polyps are diagnosed due to a colonoscopy that is performed for other reasons. People with family members who have been diagnosed with polyps should seek the advice of their health care professional to see if the need for a colonoscopy may be indicated.
Though rare, there are a number of genetic syndromes that put individuals at risk for developing many hundreds to thousands of polyps. These warrant further investigation and may be suspected on the basis of a family history of colon cancer or polyps at a young age (less than 50) or rectal bleeding. The polyps are often removed and examined under a microscope to determine the type of polyp.