A polyp is a growth in the lining of the bowel with protrudes into the lumen of the bowel. At first these are very small but can grow quite large. Small polyps do not usually cause any symptoms but as they get bigger may bleed. Polyps close to the lower part of the bowel may produce mucous – seen as a slimy discharge and may cause a feeling of incomplete evacuation of stool.
It is only a small number of polyps that result in symptoms. For most of these, the reason to remove them is the risk that if left some polyps become cancerous.
Polyps are usually removed at the time of a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy and then sent to the laboratory to determine the risk of them becoming cancerous. The important thing is though is that removing a polyp potentially stops a cancer developing.
In a small number of patients’, the symptoms of rectal bleeding, discharge and pain are due to diseases within the bowel such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease or cancer. It is therefore very important not to ignore these symptoms and to get the most appropriate investigations.