Colon cancer affects 1 in 20 Americans, and it all begins with a tiny polyp. Small clumps of cells, called polyps, begin to form on the lining of the colon. Usually, these cells are benign, but many polyps can develop into cancer if they are not removed. If left to develop, colon polyps can advance into colon cancer and spread throughout the body.
Although most cases of colon cancer occur in individuals above the age of 50, anyone at any age can develop a polyp. There are specific risk factors that increase the risk for developing polyps. Some of these risk factors are:
- Family history of colon cancer
- Personal history of colon polyps
- Age—over 50 years of age
There are three types of colon polyps:
- Adenomatous. About 66 percent of all polyps are adenomatous. Only a small percentage of polyps become cancerous, but most all malignant polyps are adenomatous.
- Serrated. These polyps may become cancerous depending on their size and location in the colon.
- Inflammatory. These polyps may result from a flare-up of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. People who have these two types of IBD are at increased risk for developing colorectal cancer someday.
One of the most important facts to remember about colon polyps is that they do not cause pain. Most often, colon polyps do not have any associated symptoms, so it is important to have regular colon screenings. If everything goes smoothly at your colonoscopy, you will not have to worry about scheduling another procedure for ten years! If you have not scheduled a colonoscopy and you are due for a screening, you can Find a Screening Center near you today!