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I Have Colon Polyps: Now What?

M. D. Anderson Encourages People to Review Their Polyp Report

M. D. Anderson News Release 03/11/10

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and experts at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center are encouraging men and women to learn more about colon polyps and how they affect a person’s risks for cancer.

“Finding out you have colon polyps doesn’t have to be frightening,” said Gottumukkala S. Raju, M.D., professor in the Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at M. D. Anderson. “Most colon polyps are not cancer. Yet, certain kinds of polyps may make you more likely to develop colon cancer.”

The colon is part of the large intestine. A colon polyp is a growth on the inside lining of the colon. A doctor looks for polyps during a colonoscopy.

Learn your polyp type

Polyps come in different shapes and sizes. Some are:

  • Raised on stems like mushrooms
  • Found on the surface of the colon, like a mushroom without a stalk
  • Found flat on the surface of the colon, like a pancake

When a doctor removes a polyp during a colonoscopy, he or she sends it to a pathologist for examination under a microscope. The pathologist determines if the polyp is a:

  • Hyperplastic polyp, which is not cancer
  • Adenomatous polyp, which is not cancer but can become cancer if it’s not removed
  • Malignant polyp, which is cancer

“It’s important for you to know all about the polyps your doctor found during your last colonoscopy,” Raju said.

Instructions for collecting polyp history

Raju recommends that everyone review their last colonoscopy report and make note of what was found, including the:

  • Number of polyps
  • Type of each polyp
  • Size of each polyp

Individuals can get a copy of their last colonoscopy report by calling the clinic or doctor who performed that colonoscopy. Ask for both the colonoscopy and pathology reports. These reports will indicate the type, number and size of polyps the doctor found.

Polyp history determines screening schedule

People should share this information with their doctor at their next check-up. The doctor uses this information to determine if a person’s chances of getting colon cancer are higher than normal. This information also tells the doctor when and how often a person should get a colonoscopy. 

M. D. Anderson provides detailed colonoscopy screening recommendations based on a person’s polyp history. This information can be found at www.mdanderson.org/screeningguidelines.

“Following colon cancer screening guidelines greatly helps reduce a person’s chances of getting colon cancer,” Raju said. “During a colonoscopy, the doctor has the opportunity to remove suspicious polyps before they turn into cancer.”

View video: I Have Colon Polyps: Now What?


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center