Digestive Health

Polyps found during colonoscopy, what's next?

A happy Caucasian senior man in nature, smiling because he understands his colonoscopy results.


Learn what happens when polyps are found during your colonoscopy, how they are removed and what happens after so you can feel confident about your digestive health.   


By Scott Estabrook, MD, Section Chief and Medical Director, Gastroenterology, Nuvance Health


The discovery of polyps during your colonoscopy can be concerning, but it's important to know that these growths are common and often harmless. When polyps are detected, it's crucial to understand the subsequent steps in their diagnosis, removal and post-procedure care. Learn what happens when polyps are found during your colonoscopy, how they are removed and what they are tested for following your examination.


Colon polyps: types and risks


Colon polyps are abnormal growths that develop inside your colon or rectum that come in various shapes and sizes. There are two main types: adenomas, which can potentially become cancerous, and hyperplastic polyps, which have no cancer potential. Polyps usually do not cause symptoms. Factors such as age, family history of colorectal polyps or cancer and lifestyle habits can contribute to their development. Symptoms may include rectal bleeding, changes in bowel habits and abdominal pain.


Removing precancerous polyps during your colonoscopy is important in preventing colorectal cancerBoth men and women at average risk for colorectal cancer should begin screening for colon polyps at age 45.


Related content: What will happen if my colonoscopy is abnormal?


Colon polyp diagnosis and treatment options


Colonoscopy is the primary method for diagnosing colon polyps. During this procedure, a colonoscope is used to visualize the colon and rectum, allowing for the detection and removal of polyps. Polyps removed during a colonoscopy are sent to a lab for a biopsy for further analysis. The best treatment for colon polyps is polypectomy, which is usually a painless removal of the polyp with a colonoscope at the time of colonoscopy).


Sometimes a polyp is too large to remove completely in one session requiring either multiple colonoscopies, or rarely surgery to remove it completely. Treatment options depend on the size and type of polyps, ranging from non-surgical methods for smaller polyps to surgical intervention for larger or more complex ones.


Learn more about colonoscopies in this video: See what it’s like to get a colonoscopy screening


Colon polyp preventative measures and long-term management


After a polyp is removed, it's important that you adopt preventative measures to reduce the risk of recurrence. Lifestyle changes such as a balanced diet, regular exercise and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol can contribute to a healthier colon and reduce, but not eliminate the chances that future polyps form. Regular follow-up colonoscopies are essential for long-term monitoring and management of polyps.


The bottom line: While the discovery of polyps during your colonoscopy may initially cause concern, it's important you remember that they are common and often harmless. Knowing the types of polyps, the risks associated with them and the available treatment options can help you make informed decisions about your digestive health.