Did you recently find out that you have colon polyps? Don’t worry. Most polyps aren’t cancer.
But some types of colon polyps do increase your risk of developing colonrectal cancer. So, it’s important to be informed.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is a polyp?
A colon polyp is a small growth on the inside of your colon (also known as your large intestine) that can turn into cancer.
Polyps come in different shapes and sizes, and are most common in adults age 50 and older. They can take the following forms:
- 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
During a colonoscopy, your doctor looks for and removes abnormal polyps that can become cancer. Finding and removing polyps before they become cancer is the most effective way to prevent colon cancer.
Men and women at average risk for colorectal cancer should begin colorectal cancer screening beginning at age 50. African American men and women should begin screening exams at age 45.
Ask the right questions
After your colonoscopy, your doctor will send the removed polyps to a pathologist. That way, your polyps can be tested to see if they’re cancerous or pre-cancerous.
The pathologist determines if the polyp is a:
- Hyperplastic polyp, which is not cancer
- Serrated adenoma, which is not cancer but can become cancer if it’s not removed
- Adenomatous polyp, which is not cancer but can become cancer if it’s not removed
- Malignant polyp, which is cancer
Be sure to get copies of your pathology and colonoscopy reports. Take time to discuss these reports with your doctor and ask these questions:
- What type of polyps were found?
- How many polyps were removed?
- What was the size of the polyps?
The answers to these questions help your doctor determine whether you’re more likely to develop colon cancer in the future. They also help your doctor decide if you need to get colonoscopies more often to watch for new polyps.
After your exam, be sure to follow the doctor’s orders. Keep a record of your reports to take to follow-up exams. And, stay on schedule with regular colonoscopies. It just might save your life.