When you have a colonoscopy done, or any other colon cancer screening test, the gastroenterologist looks for polyps. What exactly is a polyp?
A polyp is a small abnormal growth that can appear on the inner colon lining, also called the large intestine, and it sticks out into the colon passageway. Polyps can be raised or they can have a flat surface. The flat polyps are smaller and harder to see and are more likely to be pre-cancerous than the raised polyps. They can range in size and quantity and can grow anywhere in the colon. The most commonplace for polyps to grow is the lower part of the colon. It is also possible for a person to have more than one polyp. The polyps can be classified in three different ways: benign, meaning they are not cancerous; pre-cancerous, meaning they could become cancer, or they are already cancerous. These polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy, which is also a test used to check for colon polyps. Polyp removal is an important tool in preventing colon cancer.
Am I At Risk for Colon Polyps? Anyone can get colon polyps, but the items listed below might put you at higher risk.
- Those over the age of 50 are more likely to have colon polyps.
- If you have had polyps before you may be prone to have them again.
- They can be hereditary so if someone in your family has had polyps or colon cancer you might want to have more frequent colon cancer screening exams.
- Those who drink alcohol or smoke are also more at risk
- If you are overweight and/or eat many fatty foods, you may also be at risk.
What Are The Symptoms of Polyps? Unfortunately, there really are not any symptoms to look for which is why it is important to have regular colon cancer screening exams. The small number of people who have had symptoms experience bleeding from the anus or blood in the stool. Sometimes there may be constipation or diarrhea lasting more than a week, but this could be due to any number of gastrointestinal problems, which is why it is important to talk with your gastroenterologist about any gastrointestinal problems you might be having.
How Can I Prevent Polyps? There is still a lot of research being done on the prevention of polyps but studies have shown that you lessen your risk if you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables along with foods high in calcium, as opposed to eating a lot of fatty foods. Cutting out smoking and alcohol and losing weight. if you are overweight. can also lessen your risk. Talk with one of the gastrointestinal specialists at GI Associates to find out other ways you can lessen your risk of polyps and to see how often you should have a colon cancer screening exam.
Because polyps have no symptoms, it is important to be checked regularly. Call one of the gastrointestinal specialists at GI Associates to find out when you need to should set up an appointment.