Congratulations – you have had your colonoscopy and received your results. However, the results state that your doctor found a “colon polyp” during your procedure. What exactly is a colon polyp and what does this mean? According to MedicineNet.com a colon polyp is a “fleshy” abnormal growth that occurs on the inside lining of the large intestine (colon). These growths can appear either raised or flat, and one or more growths (polyps) can be found at the same time. MedicineNet.com states that colon polyps are common, and that approximately 50% of people over the age of 60 will have at least one. Certain types of polyps can lead to colon cancer. Colon cancer is a leading cause of death in the United States, which makes it important to screen for polyps and remove them before they become cancerous. For this reason, the current recommendation is to have a colonoscopy at the age of 50 – or sooner if you fall into a high-risk category.
People who fall into the high-risk category for developing colon polyps include those with the following factors:
- A family history of colon polyps – someone in your family has had polyps (individuals with a first degree family member – parent, sibling or child – are at the greatest risk)
- A family history of colon cancer – someone in your family has had colon cancer
- A personal history of colon polyps – you have had polyps before
- Age over 50
- You have had ovarian or uterine cancer before the age of 50
Individuals that fall into this category should have a colonoscopy well before the age of 50 and this should be discussed with a board certified gastroenterologist.
Certain lifestyle habits can predispose people to develop colon polyps and these include:
- Alcohol and tobacco use
- A diet high in fatty foods
- Sedentary lifestyle – lack of exercise
Recommendations are to eat a diet low in fat and high in fiber, fruits and vegetables, maintain a normal weight and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol use.
There are many types of colon polyps but the most common are:
- Hyperplastic polyps – these are the type that will never turn cancerous
- Adenomatous polyps – these are the type that have the ability to turn cancerous if not removed and are left to grow
- Serrated adenoma polyps – these are the type of polyps that have both hyperplastic and adenomatous components and rarely turn cancerous
- Malignant polyps – these are the type that are cancerous
If your doctor found polyps during your colonoscopy, they were removed and sent to a lab for analysis. After a board certified pathologist has viewed the polyps under a microscope, a report was sent to your doctor listing what type of polyps were found. Depending on the type found, your doctor has made recommendations on what you will need to do next.
If the lab reports that your polyp was hyperplastic, the recommendation will be to repeat your colonoscopy in 10 years for continued surveillance, unless you develop or have a family history of adenomatous polyps or colon cancer in a first degree relative. Then the recommendation will be to repeat colonoscopy in 5 years.
If the lab reports that your polyp was adenomatous and under 10 millimeters in diameter or no more than 2 adenomas were found, the recommendation will be to repeat your colonoscopy in 5 years.
If the lab reports that your polyp was adenomatous and greater than 10 millimeters in diameter or 3 or more adenomas were removed, the recommendation will be to repeat your colonoscopy in 3 years.
If the lab reports that your polyp was a serrated adenoma, the recommendation will be to repeat your colonoscopy in 5 years.
If the lab reports that your polyp was malignant (cancerous), your doctor will advise you whether all of the cancer was removed or whether you will need to contact a surgeon for further treatment.
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in our country today. The most important method to reduce your chance of developing colon cancer is to have surveillance colonoscopy and follow up within the recommended parameters listed above. For more information on colon polyps, visit http://www.uptodate.com/contents/patient-information-colon-polyps
To find a gastroenterologist in Columbus, Ohio, visit http://www.healthgrades.com/gastroenterology-directory/oh-ohio/columbus
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