Most colon polyps are noncancerous tissue that can sometimes develop into colon cancer. Colon cancer usually begins as a polyp, or a growth on the inner surface of the colon. Polyps are made of clumps of cells that grow slowly over time. If left to grow, larger polyps can bleed or even block the colon. In the most severe cases, polyps can lead to abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and constipation.
Do polyps always mean colon cancer? Not at all. Having colon polyps increases the likelihood to have more polyps in the future, but it does not necessarily mean that you have colon cancer. Having polyps will make you a candidate for more routine colonoscopies. A colonoscopy is the most effective type of screening method for colon cancer. Your doctor can examine the entire colon for precancerous polyps and remove any suspicious polyps during the procedure. For larger polyps, a biopsy can be taken during the colonoscopy to test for cancerous cells.
Regular colon screenings are important because polyps can move progressively from noncancerous to cancerous. There are two main types of polyps in the colon and rectum:
Hyperplastic and inflammatory polyps
These polyps are not at high risk for becoming cancerous, except for large hyperplastic polyps on the right side of the colon. These polyps are more concerning and should be removed entirely.
Adenomas and adenomatous polyps
These are considered pre-cancerous and should be removed. Often, if left alone, these polyps can turn into cancer. One specific type of condition is called familial adenomatous polyposis is an inherited disorder in which patients develop multiple noncancerous polyps in their teenage years, and polyps progressively become malignant.
Colon cancer and cancerous polyps often have no symptoms, so the most important thing to remember is to talk to your doctor about how often you should be screened. Regular screening significantly lowers your risk for colon cancer, and the disease is highly treatable when found in the early stages. Not all polyps are cancerous, but don’t take a chance. Schedule your colonoscopy today by contacting one of our treatment centers.