Bowel polyps are small growths on the lining of the bowel wall. They are common, especially as we age. They are benign (non-cancerous) growth that can be slightly raised from the bowel wall lining, or be like a ball on a stalk. They can range in size from a few millimetres to 5cm or more.
Approximately half of all Australians develop a bowel polyp during their lifetime, but the majority of these remain undetected. While most bowel polyps do not become cancerous, if left untreated for many years approximately 5% do. Most polyps do not cause any symptoms and are found by chance during colonoscopy. Removing polyps at colonoscopy reduces the risk of developing bowel cancer in the future. The size, number and type of polyps (characterised in a pathology laboratory) found at colonoscopy indicates the risk of developing future polyps or bowel cancer and therefore dictates the time interval between further colonoscopy (e.g. 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 5 years or 10 years).
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