You know colon cancer is the cancer that is, by far and away, the most easily prevented, but do you know why?
Polyp removal really does prevent colon cancer, and when you follow the recommended guidelines for screening and re-screening, you only have the slimmest chance of developing it.
What is a polyp?
A polyp is an abnormal growth of cells. It can be shaped like a bump, a mushroom, or flat or slightly depressed. While we hear a great deal about colon polyps, polyps can also form in the cervix and uterus, the ear, nose and throat, and the stomach.
How big is a polyp?
Polyps can be tiny, just a few millimeters, to very large. The larger the polyp, the more likely it will cause noticeable symptoms and will develop into cancer.
Are there different types of polyps?
• Inflammatory polyps are common in those with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
• Adenomatous polyps are the most common and only a small percentage become cancerous. However, nearly all malignant polyps are adenomatous polyps.
• Serrated polyps are divided into hyperplastic, rarely cancerous, and sessile, nearly always precancerous.
Can I tell if I have polyps?
There are usually no symptoms of polyps, benign or cancerous. However, as polyps grow, you may experience bleeding, bloody stool, constipation or diarrhea that lasts longer than a week, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting.
If you have any of these symptoms, call Dr. Gaston immediately.
How does a colonoscopy actually help?
During your colonoscopy, Dr. Gaston removes any polyps with a wire loop or, in some cases, biopsy forceps - and that’s what’s vitally important. Removing polyps prevents cancer. Period.
What if Dr. Gaston does find and remove polyps?
The polyps that are removed will be examined by a pathologist to determine if they are precancerous. Depending upon the size and frequency of the polyps, Dr. Gaston will recommend you are re-screened sooner than someone without polyps. This timely re-screening will help discover and remove any more developing polyps.
Does everyone develop polyps?
Nearly everyone is at risk for developing polyps at some point in life; they are just something our bodies create. This happens especially when you’re over 50 years old, which is why a colonoscopy is recommended right about your 50th birthday.
African-American are at a higher risk of developing polyps and colon cancer than other ethnic groups.
Other risk factors include:
• a family history of polyps and colon cancer
• Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
• eating a high fat and low fiber diet
• drinking alcoholic beverages
• being overweight or obese
• not exercising enough
• having Type 2 diabetes
Do I need to act right now?
• If you’re African-American and over 45 years old, you need to make an appointment for this screening as soon as possible.
• If you are over 50 and have not had a colonoscopy, you also need this screening as soon as possible.
- If you’ve had a colonoscopy but don’t remember when you’re supposed to be back, call our office and we will be happy to check our records.
Any other questions? Call us. We are here to help!