Have you had your colonoscopy? Colon polyps typically don't cause symptoms, so it's important to have regular screenings.
A colon polyp is a small clump of cells that forms on the lining of the colon. Most colon polyps are harmless. But over time, some colon polyps can develop into colon cancer. Colon cancer can be fatal when found in its later stages.
Anyone can develop colon polyps. You're at higher risk if you are 50 or older, are overweight or are a smoker. You're also at higher risk if you have a personal or family history of colon polyps or colon cancer.
Colon polyps don't usually cause symptoms. It's important to have regular screening tests because colon polyps found in the early stages can usually be removed safely and completely. The best prevention for colon cancer is regular screening for and removal of polyps.
Most people with colon polyps do not have any symptoms. You might not know you have a polyp until your health care provider finds it during an exam of your colon.
However, some people with colon polyps may have:
See your health care provider if you experience:
You should be screened regularly for polyps if:
Healthy cells grow and divide in an orderly way. Changes in certain genes can cause cells to continue dividing even when new cells aren't needed. In the colon and rectum, this continued growth of cells can cause polyps to form. Polyps can grow anywhere in the large intestine.
There are two main categories of polyps, nonneoplastic and neoplastic. Nonneoplastic polyps typically do not become cancerous. Neoplastic polyps include adenomas and serrated types. Adenomas are the most likely to turn into cancer if given enough time to grow. Serrated polyps also may become cancerous, depending on their size and location. In general for neoplastic polyps, the larger the polyp, the greater the risk of cancer.
Factors that might cause colon polyps or cancer include:
Rarely, people inherit genetic irregularities that cause colon polyps to form. If you have one of these genes, you are at a much higher risk of developing colon cancer. Screening and early detection can help prevent the growth or spread of these cancers.
Hereditary disorders that cause colon polyps include:
Some colon polyps may become cancerous. The earlier polyps are removed, the less likely it is that they will become cancerous.
You can greatly reduce your risk of colon polyps and colorectal cancer by having regular screenings. Certain lifestyle changes also can help:
Screening tests are important in finding polyps before they become cancerous. These tests also can help find colorectal cancer in its early stages, when you have a good chance of recovery.
Screening methods include:
Your health care provider is likely to remove all polyps discovered during a bowel exam. The options for removal include:
Some types of colon polyps are more likely to become cancerous than others. A health care provider who analyzes tissue samples will look at your polyp tissue under a microscope to determine if it could be cancerous.
If you have had an adenomatous polyp or a serrated polyp, you are at increased risk of colon cancer. The level of risk depends on the size, number and characteristics of the adenomatous polyps that were removed.
You'll need follow-up screenings for polyps. Your health care provider is likely to recommend a colonoscopy:
It's very important to fully clean out your colon before a colonoscopy. If stool remains in the colon and blocks your health care provider's view of the colon wall, you will likely need another colonoscopy sooner than usual to make sure all polyps are found.
After a good colon preparation, bowel movements should appear as clear liquid. They may be slightly yellow or green-tinged, depending on any liquids consumed while preparing. If you experience trouble with your colon preparation or feel that you have not been fully cleaned out, you should tell your provider before beginning your colonoscopy. Some people need additional steps before having a colonoscopy.
You may be referred to a health care provider who specializes in digestive diseases, called a gastroenterologist.
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your health care provider, don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.
Your provider is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may leave time to go over points you want to spend more time on. You may be asked: