Polyps?!  What does it mean if your doctor finds polyps in your colon?  Sometimes, during a routine colonoscopy,  doctors and staff at DDC of Orlando discover colon polyps on the lining of the large intestine.  This results in some patients becoming unduly alarmed when we inform them.   These are small growths or tiny tumors lodged in the lining of the intestine.  In this week’s topic, we reveal some facts about these growths in an effort to better understand their bad reputation.

According to the American College of Gastroenterology, polyps can be “scattered throughout the colon and vary in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters.”  There are three types:

Polyps Being removed by tiny insturment in the tunnel of the intestine: artist's concept

Polyps can be safely and painlessly removed during your colonoscopy.

1.      They might appear only slightly raised, almost flattened in appearance.

2.      They may be bumps.  They have a special name, “sessile” polyps.

3.      These tiny growths can also be pedunculated:  This means “they can grow on little stalks, almost like a mushroom or a cauliflower.”

We know the mention of them strikes fear into the hearts of some patients:  It is a well proven medical fact that some polyps progress into cancer.  However, keep in mind that 95 percent of the ones found during a colonoscopy are not cancerous.

The Bad Press versus the Truth!

Experts tell us that the fear of cancer cells in the growths has given colon polyps a bad reputation.  Colorectal cancer is the third leading cancer in the US.  So Americans have learned to fear it.  Grandmothers and great grandmothers died as a result.

However, to a certain extent, patients with polyps found during a colonoscopy are the lucky ones.  Many of these, that might have morphed into cancer are detected early.  They can be surgically removed during the fairly routine colonoscopy.  Again, in the words of the College of Gastroenterology, “By identifying and removing colon polyps during colonoscopy, we can prevent their progression to cancer and ultimately save lives.”

Manage Your Fear Factor!

The truth is most polyps are not cancerous.  Often they are not even pre-cancerous!  The polyps, without a talent for creating cancer have some nifty names: hyperplastic, inflammatory, and hamartomatous.

Some medical colorectal cancer risk factors are inherited.

Close up of DNA Strand

These polyps do not invite or inspire cancer.  Fear them not!

The pre-cancerous polyp, which can turn into a cancer, is called an adenoma.  And the size does matter.  The larger the adenoma, the larger the possibility that it might harbor cancer or pre-cancerous cells.  Both hyperplastic and adenomas are the typical types most often found during your colonoscopy.

At DDC Orlando, we do not hesitate to remove polyps during a colonoscopy.  We ship them directly to our lab.  You see, we want to know as soon as possible if any of your tiny tumors or growths harbor cancer cells.

The Dreaded Transmogrification:  From Adenoma to Cancer

In general, statistics show a small adenoma can blossom into colon cancer if it is given ten years to grow.  Now you know why patients are often counseled to schedule a screening colonoscopy every 10 years, after age 40.  Additionally, DDC Orlando shortens this time period for high risk patients.  Such is the case in a patient who has been diagnosed with any of these conditions:

1.      Familial Adenomatous Polyposis, a hereditary form of colon cancer,

2.      Hereditary non polyposis colorectal cancer,

3.      Or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBS)

As you might imagine, the amount of time prescribed between screenings is individualized according to each patient’s health and personalized treatment plans.

Polyps:  The Mysterious Lack of Symptoms

You are not going to break out in a bright green tell-tale rash that indicates the presence of polyps.  Instead, you will likely have no symptoms.  Digestive Disease Consultants, doctors and staff are intensely conscious of the lack of symptoms registered.

Most colon polyps reveal no cancer.

Most colon polyps are actually benign.

The American College of Gastroenterology states, “Because most polyps do NOT cause any symptoms, colorectal cancer screening for polyps is crucial for colorectal cancer prevention.”  They add three important points:

1.      They no longer recommend barium enemas for acceptable screening.

2.      Endoscopic tests like the flexible sigmoidoscopy might provide good screening, depending on your case.   As their name indicates, these tests are limited to the sigmoid colon.

3.      The DDC highly recommends the colonoscopy after you reach age 40.  Yes, stool tests can investigate some abnormal DNA bowel problems or find blood in the bowel.  However, they do not really scan for problems with polyps.

We constantly remind patients and potential patients that the colonoscopy is the touchstone of medical tests for polyps.  As experts explain, “It is the only test that is able to evaluate the entire colon lining, as well as take tissue samples…”  As a result, small growths can be removed during the same procedure.”

Here in Orlando, we thank you for reading the blog of the Digestive Disease Consultants.  In our next post will provide more revelations about problems with polyps.  Perhaps you will also learn a few protocols for lessening your risks for collecting them.  Plus you won’t want to miss the case-study story of Polly and the Polyps.  Until then, feel free to check out colonoscopies on our procedures pages on this very same DDC resource.