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Brochures and Helpful Information

Colon Polyps & Cancer

Cancer of the colon ranks as a leading form of cancer, along with lung and breast cancer.

Colon cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer when detected early.

What is a Colon Polyp?

Colon PolypA polyp is a growth or extra tissue that occurs in the colon and other organs. These growths, or fleshy tumors, are shaped like a mushroom or a dome-like button, and occur on the inside lining of the colon. Usually, smaller polyps are harmless. Larger polyps could someday become cancer or may already be cancer.

The larger the polyp, the more likely it is to contain cancer cells.

Definitions

Adenomatous: is a change in the tissue arranged in a tubular pattern. Adenomatous polyps are precancerous and may eventually develop into colon cancer if not removed.

Hyperplastic: is excessive proliferation of normal cells in the normal tissue arrangement.

Gastroenterologist: is a physician specialist trained in the study of the physiology and pathology of the stomach, intestines, esophagus, liver, gallbladder and pancreas.

Why Do Colon Polyps / Cancer Form?

Polyp StalkA great deal is known about why and how polyps form. In some people heredity and genes are the most important factors. In others, diet and food can be contributing factors.

Who gets polyps?

Anyone can get polyps, but certain people are more likely than others. You may have a greater chance of getting polyps if:

  • You are over 50. The older you get the more
    likely you are to develop polyps
  • You have had polyps before
  • Someone in your family has had polyps
  • Someone in your family has had colon cancer

Diet

You may also be more likely to get polyps if you:

  • Eat a lot of fatty foods
  • Smoke
  • Drink alcohol
  • Don’t exercise
  • Are overweight

Fruits and vegetables contain beneficial chemicals called antioxidants and contribute to good health. People who eat diets rich in fruits and vegetables seem to have a lower incidence of many cancers, including colon cancer.

A high fiber diet itself does not prevent colon cancer, however it does contribute to the overall health of your gastrointestinal system by keeping your bowel mobile and your stools softer.

Eating more Calcium and Folate can also lower your risk of getting polyps.

What are the symptoms?

Most polyps don’t cause symptoms. Most often people don’t realize they have one until the doctor finds it.

Some people do have symptoms such as:

  • Bleeding from the anus. You might notice blood on your underwear or on the toilet paper after you have had a bowel movement.
  • Constipation or diarrhea that lasts more than a week.
  • Blood in the stool. Blood can make stools look black, or it can show up as red streaks in the stool.

If you have any of these symptoms, see a doctor to find out what the problem is.

How does the doctor test for polyps?

  • A digital rectal exam: The doctor wears gloves and checks your rectum to see if it feels normal. This test would find polyps only in the rectum, so the doctor may need to do an additional exam to look at the entire colon.
  • Colonoscopy: Your Gastroenterologist will administer sedation and insert a small flexible tube into your rectum. He/she will examine the entire colon looking for polyps or other abnormalities.

How are polyps treated?

Colon Polyp Procedure IllustrationIn most instances your Gastroenterologist will remove the polyp during the colonoscopy procedure. Occasionally a polyp will be too large and you will need to have it surgically removed.

Your polyp will be sent to a laboratory to be examined. The pathology results will determine when you need to be examined in the future. Your Gastroenterologist’s office will notify you of your pathology results and the recommended examination recall date.

 

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