What Is a Bowel Neoplasm?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2018
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A bowel neoplasm is an abnormal growth in the tissue of the intestines. Such growths are very rare and may be either benign or malignant. If a doctor identifies an abnormality, the next step is typically a biopsy to learn more about it and determine what kind of treatment, if any, is necessary. Unfortunately, bowel neoplasms are often identified only after they are quite advanced, which can limit opportunities for treatment. Routine screening is generally not recommended because the costs of screening can outweigh the potential benefits of finding a very rare cancer early.

Neoplasms can develop along the bowel in the shape of discs, clumps of tissue, or ulcerations that eat into the bowel wall. The precise reasons for such growths are not fully understood; they are caused by the proliferation of uncontrolled cell division, but the reasons why cells abruptly start multiplying out of control are unknown. Some theories include environmental pressures, like recurrent bowel irritation that increases the chance of DNA mutations in the tissue, as well as diet and genetics.


Patients can notice bowel neoplasm symptoms like intestinal obstructions, nausea, and vomiting. Diarrhea, constipation, bloody or dark stool, and abdominal bloating can also occur. Some growths are quite large by the time they start to cause symptoms, with intermittent bowel pain as the first warning sign. A patient who presents with intestinal distress may be given several screening tests before a doctor thinks to check for a bowel neoplasm with exploratory surgery or endoscopy, where a camera is inserted into the bowel to look inside.

Once the doctor finds a bowel neoplasm, it is possible to take a small sample for analysis by a pathologist. Doctors may prefer to take off the entirety of the visible growth, if this is feasible. In the event the growth is cancerous, the doctor will not need to return to remove the rest. The pathologist can determine what kinds of cells are involved and whether they are malignant, and can also check to see if the doctor got clean margins of healthy tissue, removing the entirety of the growth without leaving any cells behind.

If a patient has a malignant bowel neoplasm, the doctor may recommend chemotherapy and radiation as possible treatments. Patients in remission need regular screening to identify recurrences as quickly as possible. Benign growths can result in a recommendation to wait and see. Such growths may not need immediate reaction, but could turn malignant over time, in which case the patient would need a medical intervention like surgery or chemotherapy.



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