Colorectal Cancer: Polyps, Factors and Treatment

A view of the rear ends of a group of people who are standing next to each other.March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society reports that colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer for both women and men in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer deaths.


Colorectal (colon and rectal) cancer screening is key to finding this type of cancer in the early stages when treatment would be the most effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC recommends screening tests to begin at age 50. This screening would help locate abnormal growths, known as precancerous polyps, on the inner lining of your rectum or colon.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) notes some kinds of polyps can become cancer over time, but not all polyps do.  The two main kinds of polyps are adenomatous polyps (adenomas), which sometimes can become cancerous, and the more common hyperplastic polyps and inflammatory polyps, which generally are not pre-cancerous, according to the ACS.

The organization adds there are other polyp characteristics that can increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer, including the following:

  • Finding more than two polyps
  • Having polyps larger than 1cm
  • Finding dysplasia (abnormal cells) in the polyp after removal

If a polyp becomes cancerous, it could start to grow in the wall of your rectum or colon, according to the ACS, noting 95% of colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas, which begin in cells that create mucus inside your rectum and colon. There are other tumor types that start in the rectum and colon, but they are less common, including carcinoid tumors, gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs), lymphomas and sarcomas.

Risk Factors

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance states the following factors might increase your risk for developing colorectal cancer:

  • Being older than age 50 (It is most common in people older than age 50, but colorectal cancer can happen at any age.)
  • A family history of having polyps
  • Genetic alterations, or changes in certain genes
  • A family history of colorectal cancer
  • A personal history of cancer
  • Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Inherited syndromes such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC or Lynch syndrome)
  • A diet that is high in fat and red and processed meats and low in fiber, calcium and folate
  • Being inactive and/or obese
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Smoking

BayCare is proud to offer a variety of colon and rectum cancer services including online education, videos and support for patients and caregivers, including a resource handbook full of local organizations and support networks for cancer patients. For more information on Cancer Care Services, call (855) 314-8346.