What are Colon Polyps?
Colon polyps are small outgrowth from the colonic linings. Most colon polyps are benign but some of them may become malignant with time.
Colon polyps can occur in anyone, but some risk factors may increase the risk of having colon polyps; following are the most important:
- Old age more than 50 years
- African American race
- Heavy smoking
- High fat diet
- Low fiber diet
- Family history of colon polyps or cancer
- Personal history of colon polyps or cancer
What are Colon Polyp Facts?
- Colon polyps are small outgrowth from the colonic linings
- In fact colon polyps are quite common
- The importance of colon polyps lies in its risk of becoming cancerous with time
- Adenoma is the type of colon polyps which is most likely to become cancerous with time
- Colon polyps usually cause no symptoms
- Most of colon polyps are diagnosed during routine screening test for colon cancer
- Resection via the endoscopy at the time of diagnosis is the typical treatment of polyps
- It’s recommended to do regular screening for colon cancer starting from the age of 50
How Common are Colon Polyps?
According to recent studies, one third of population above 60 years will have one polyp. Personal history of colon polyps increases the risk of having other polyps anywhere else in the colon while a family history of colon polyps increases the risk of having polyps five times than the normal population.
Why are Colon Polyps Important?
The importance of colon polyps lies in its risk of becoming cancerous with time. Almost all colon cancers arise from colon polyps.
Add to that, the type of polyps in the colon is an important factor in determining the risk of becoming cancerous with time. Early diagnosis and surgical resection of colon polyps prevent the occurrence of colon cancer in the future.
Are all Colon Polyps the Same?
Colon polyps differ in types; some of them are precancerous while others are not. Adenoma is the type of colon polyps which is most likely to become cancerous with time. It is important to diagnose patients with familial tendency to have colon polyps and cancer as those patients should be screened more frequent than normal population.
What are the Symptoms and Signs of Colon Polyps?
Colon polyps usually cause no symptoms unless they become cancerous. That is why it is recommended to have regular colonoscopy for the colon to detect colon polyps early thus removing them completely. Rarely colon polyps may cause one of more of the following symptoms:
- Rectal bleeding
- Alternating changes in bowel habits; constipation followed by diarrhea
- Narrow stools
- Pain in the abdomen; mainly due to obstruction of the colon by the polyp
How are Colon Polyps Diagnosed?
Most of colon polyps are diagnosed during routine screening test for colon cancer. It is recommended to have one screening test for colon cancer yearly after the age of 50. People in high-risk group should consult their doctor to manage a suitable screening schedule. Following are some diagnostic tests for colon polyps:
- Fecal Occult Blood Test: This is a lab test for stool aimed at detecting any small amount of fresh blood which may indicate the possibility of having precancerous polyps or even cancer. It can be performed in home via using special home kit. A positive test indicates the need of the colonoscopy. Although it can be positive in some benign conditions such as hemorrhoids.
- Colonoscopy: It’s simply the process of using a small scope with a long tube which ends with small camera. It’s used to visualize the whole colon and rectum. We are aiming at seeing any polyps, and to remove them during the test thus sending them to the histopathology lab. Usually, before performing this test, the doctor will ask you to adopt the special diet and to use a certain type of enemas or even laxatives to prepare your bowel thus making your colon clean for visualization. Colonoscopy is usually performed under sedation.
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: Technically, it’s the same process as colonoscopy except that Flexible sigmoidoscopy is used to visualize small part of the colon; which is named sigmoid colon. If the doctor visualizes polyps during this test, he can remove them or ask for a full colonoscopy later on. Flexible sigmoidoscopy can be performed without sedation.
- CT Colonography (also called Virtual Colonoscopy): It’s a detailed scan of the whole colon. It requires no sedation. If any suspicious areas were seen through CT colonography, colonoscopy should be performed as soon as possible.
How are Colon Polyps Treated?
Most colon polyps, which are diagnosed during endoscopy, are removed during the same procedure. This is the typical treatment of polyps. Surgical resection is another option which is done occasionally nowadays.
How is Screening for Colon Polyps Done?
Almost all colon cancers originate from polyps. If we can diagnose the presence of those polyps early, we can remove them surgically thus preventing the arising of cancer.
This is the idea behind the colon cancer screening via colonoscopy. Ideally, the screening should start at the age of 50, or even much earlier if there is a strong family history of colon cancer that is suggestive of familial inherited cancer syndrome.
Colonoscopy is one of the screening tests for colon cancer, there is another one known as fecal occult blood; which is less invasive. In this screening test, we take a stool sample then we analyze it for the presence of invisible blood, if it’s positive, it’s suggestive for impeding colon cancer. You have to consult your doctor to help you to choose the best screening test for you.
What American Cancer Society is Saying about Colon Polyps?
Depending on the American Cancer Society, the prognosis of the patient with colon polyps depends on the following factors:
- Family history of colon cancer
- Number of colon polyps
- Size of the colon polyps
- The histological pattern of the polyps
- Time of the diagnosis
Are all Colon Cancers Associated with Polyps?
The answer is no, although most colon cancers arise from polyps, some of them still forms within the colonic wall as flat growth. Those flat cancers are more dangerous as they spread rapidly thus it is more difficult to treat them.
Can Colon Polyps be Prevented?
- Regular Screening: It’s recommended to do regular screening for colon cancer starting from the age of 50
- Adopting Healthy Lifestyle: Healthy diet, reduction of excess weight, and regular exercising, is very crucial to prevent colon polyps and cancer
- Eat more fruits, whole grains, and vegetables, but less beef, pork, lamb, hot dogs, and other processed meat
- Limit your alcohol intake to less than two drinks daily for men and one drink for women
- Avoid obesity via regular exercising; this will lower your colon cancer risk
- Stop smoking
To be honest, if you maintain your colon health, the formation of a colon polyp is next to impossible. You can use a colon health supplement or a probiotic such as Hyperbiotics Pro 15 to keep your colon healthy.