A polyp is an abnormal growth in the lining of the wall of the bowel (colon). Most polyps are not cancerous, however all cancer that affects the colon begins as a polyp.
Polyps are usually identified during an examination, for example during a colonoscopy, as they often cause no symptoms at all, although occasionally they can cause some rectal bleeding.
There are many different types of polyps and it is not possible to determine whether a specific polyp is likely to be cancerous or not simply by looking at it during a colonoscopy procedure. For this reason, polyps are routinely removed during a colonoscopy and sent to pathology to determine their makeup.
Some polyps can be too large to remove during a colonoscopy, in which case conventional surgery is required to remove them. This is often the case with polyps in the rectum.
Where a colonoscopy examination finds the presence of precancerous polyps, regular colonoscopy examinations will be recommended to the patient.