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Rectal Polyps

Rectal polyps are abnormal growths rising from the lining of the rectum, located in the last 12 inches of the large intestine. They may be flat or develop on a stalk (like broccoli). Polyps are a common condition that is typically asymptomatic. Most never turn into cancer, but a small percentage can slowly grow and develop into rectal cancer. Almost all rectal cancers develop from polyps, thus the critical need for regular screening.


Colon and rectal polyps occur in around 25% of those 50+ years old. Not all polyps will turn into cancer, and it may take years for that to occur. Other risk factors more likely to cause rectal polyps are:

  • Family history of polyps or colon cancer
  • Rare inherited gene
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (e.g., ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease)
  • High-fat/low-fiber diet
  • Tobacco or alcohol use
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity


Rectal polyps are typically asymptomatic. When symptoms do present, they include:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Bloody stools
  • Mucous discharge
  • Mass or protrusion for the anus
  • Abdominal pain/cramps
  • Change in bowel habits lasting over a week


Diagnosis occurs with a digital rectal exam, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, or by x-ray with a barium enema.


Most polyps are easily removed during a colonoscopy. However, if one is too large, surgery may be needed. If the polyp is low in the rectum, it can be removed by a transanal excision, which removes only the tumors and surrounding tissue, leaving the rectum intact. If the polyp is higher in the rectum, it can be removed with TAMIS (transanal minimally invasive surgery). TAMIS removes tumors faster than traditional surgery with less pain during recovery and faster return to daily activities. It is performed entirely through the body’s natural opening, requiring no skin incision to gain access to a polyp.

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