How is a polypectomy done?

During a polypectomy, you will lie on your side with your knees drawn up towards your chest as the procedure is done through your anus. A small amount of air is used to expand your colon, so the doctor can see your colon’s walls. (If you are awake, you may feel mild cramping during the procedure.) The colonoscope is slowly withdrawn while the lining of your bowel is examined. 

If polyps are discovered, there are several ways they can be removed. The procedure your doctor chooses will depend on the type of polyps in your colon.

  • For small polyps less than 5 millimeters in diameter, biopsy forceps can be used to snip them off. 
  • Larger polyps can be removed through a snare polypectomy, when your doctor will loop a thin wire around the bottom of the polyp and use heat to cut it off. Then the remaining tissue is cauterized. 
  • If you have a polyp that can’t be removed with either of the two above methods, there are other options. Your surgeon can perform either an endoscopic mucosal resection, when the polyp is lifted using a fluid injection and then removed in pieces, or an endoscopic submucosal dissection, when the polyp is removed in one piece.

There are some large polyps that can’t be removed endoscopically and, in those cases, bowel surgery might be necessary.

Once a polyp is removed, it can then be sent to a lab where it will be tested to determine if it is cancerous. (The results of these tests are usually available in about a week.)

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