A Rectal Polyp is a mass of tissue that breaks through the mucous membrane of the colon or rectum and then juts outs into the digestive tract. There are several different classifications of polyps including the common polypoid adenomas, villous adenomas, Focal polypoid hyperplasia, and juvenile polyps (also called hamartomas). Most rectal polyps are found to be benign, except for villous adenomas and hereditary polyps which stand a good chance of being malignant.
Unchecked cell growth in the top layer of the intestinal wall leads to the formation of polyps. Hereditary, age, infection and diet all factor into whether a person will form rectal polyps as well as what type they will get. Villous adenomas are commonly found in men over the age of 55 while common polypoid adenomas seem to target women between the ages of 45 and 60. Children under the age of ten are susceptible to juvenile polyps while both men and women over the age of 70 stand an increased chance of getting rectal polyps.
Many people with rectal polyps do not suffer any symptoms and the tissue masses are only discovered after a digital exam or colonoscopy. Rectal bleeding is one common symptom that may indicate the presence of a rectal polyp depending on the lesions location on the colon or rectum. A streak of blood in the stools for example might be an indication of high rectal polyps while freely flowing blood may be a sign of low rectal polyps.
If allowed to grow to a large size, villous adenomas might cause pain during bowel movements, but since they are generally soft, they rarely block bowel movements altogether. People with hereditary polyposis can suffer from diarrhea, bloody stools, and secondary anemia, with the change in bowel regularity and abdominal pain usually a sign of recto-sigmoid cancer.
Small grainy growths are usually a sign of focal polypoid hyperplasia. Large inflamed lesions without a protective tissue covering them is usually a sign of juvenile polyps.
Rectal polyps are usually diagnosed through the use of a colonoscope or similar instrument, or through biopsy analysis. A barium enema can help find polyps that are located high up in the colon. Villous adenomas can be found through blood studies that look for low hemoglobin and hematocrit levels and electrolyte imbalances along with supportive lab findings such as blood in the stools.
Treatment is dependent on the size and type of polyp as well as its location in the colon or rectum. Common polypoid adenomas that are less than a ½ inch in size will usually be removed by fulguration (high-frequency electricity). Removal of part of the intestine might be required for polypoid adenomas over 1 ½ inches in diameter as well as all villous adenomas. A biopsy can help remove focal polypoid hyperplasia. Hereditary polyps might require the removal of the affected section depending on the involvement of the digestive tract. Juvenile polyps generally fall off on their own, but can also be removed with a snare during a colonoscopy.