What are Colon Polyps?
Colon polyps are small clusters of cells that grow along the lining of the rectum or the large intestine, also called the colon. Some polyps grow flat along the colon’s lining; others grow on a stalk and have a mushroom-type appearance. The risk of developing colon cancer increases with the growth of a polyp, which can range in diameter from less than one-quarter inch to several inches. During colonoscopy, our doctors at Manhattan Gastroenterology are able to find polyps and remove them at the same time thereby decreasing the chance that they become cancers. If you have had a personal or family history of polyps, you should discuss with your gastroenterologist when you are due for your next colonoscopy.
Types of Colon Polyps
There are two common types of colon polyps: hyperplastic and adenoma. Hyperplastic polyps begin and remain benign; this type does not become cancerous. However, while not all adenomatous polyps become cancerous, all colon cancers are believed to originate with an adenoma. The likelihood of an adenoma containing cancerous cells increases with the size of the polyp. Doctors cannot identify the type of polyp without a microscope, so they strongly recommend the removal of all polyps found during an examination.
Risk Factors of Polyps
The largest risk associated with polyps is the potential for a benign polyp to grow cancerous. The risk of malignancy grows with the size of the polyp, so early detection and removal remains a person’s best means of avoiding colon cancer.
Causes of Polyps
The exact cause of colon polyps is unknown despite their common occurrence, but certain factors are known to increase the probability of polyp development.
- Family and Personal History: A family history of polyps increases the risk factor in individuals, and individuals who have previously developed the growths have an increased chance of recurrent growths.
- Alcohol and Tobacco Use: Smoking and excessive drinking contributes to colon polyp development.
- Diet: Polyp formation occurs more frequently in people following high-fat, low-fiber diets than in those following low-fat, high-fiber diets.
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Symptoms of Polyps
People with colon polyps often experience no symptoms and remain unaware of their presence until a doctor’s examination. Occasionally, however, symptoms occur and should be adequately addressed by own of our gastrology doctors for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
Doctors employ several techniques to screen patients for polyps.
Gastroenterologists use a slender, flexible tube with a miniscule video camera to examine the rectum and entire colon called a colonoscope. This method has preference for two reasons: It most accurately discovers polyps, and doctors can remove polyps while they examine. This is the gold standard for diagnosis. There are other options such as imaging for detection polyps although they are not the gold standard. Please discuss your options with your gastroenterologist during your consultation.
Doctors remove the majority of polyps during a colonoscopy using a snare technique: They use a wire loop that cuts and cauterizes. For smaller growths, an electric current can be used to burn the polyp. Large or inaccessible polyps may require surgery if they can’t be removed during a colonoscopy. Although highly uncommon, polyps’ removal can result in bleeding or colon perforation. Simple cauterization corrects bleeding, but surgery might be required to fix perforations.
The frequency of follow-up colonoscopies varies according various factors that include the type, size and number of previous polyps and how well a doctor can see the colon’s surface; clear viewing of the colon depends upon the quality of the colon cleanse prior to the procedure. This may also have to do with your personal history and family history as well. Please discuss with your gastroenterologist the follow up period after your colonoscopy in order to make sure you are on schedule and avoid any complications.
At Manhattan Gastroenterology, we offer state-of-the-art gastroenterology care and colonoscopy services. Our doctors are expert gastroenterologists and will provide a thorough consultation and physical examination to arrive at an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Please call our offices for more information or to schedule an appointment.
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