Facts & Risks
While doctors are unsure about what exactly causes polyps to form, they are indeed a common occurrence in many humans alive today. All polyps are not cancerous, but certain types tend to turn into cancerous growths. Polyps happen due to cells beginning to overgrow in one specific area of your body. Anyone can get a polyp, but if you have any of these, your risk factors might be higher.
- over age 50
- obese or overweight
- have uncontrolled type-2 diabetes
- are a smoker
- have an inflammatory bowel disease like Chron’s or ulcerative colitis
- have had polyps or colon cancer in the past
Along with those aforementioned risk factors, there are also certain genetic conditions that play a role in your risk factors as well. If you have any of these genetic conditions, you will most likely be monitored more frequently by your medical care team to ensure that all polyps are controlled.
- FAP or familial adenomatous polyposis can cause hundreds of polyps to grow in young childhood and adulthood.
- Lynch syndrome is a hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer that causes more polyps to grow that are likely to also become cancer.
- Peutz-Jeghers syndrome is a condition that starts with freckles developing all over the body. This syndrome can also cause uncontrolled growth of polyps that can become cancer.
- Gardner’s syndrome is a type of FAP that causes an overgrowth of polyps in your colon and small intestine. This can also cause growths and tumors to grow elsewhere in the body.
- Serrated polyposis syndrome causes a specific type of polyp, SAP, to grow in the upper part of the colon, and often results in colon or colorectal cancer.
- MAP or myh-associated polyposis is a problem with the MYH gene that causes uncontrolled growth of polyps in the colon at a young age.
There are two main types of polyps that people are diagnosed with. Hyperplastic polyps are smaller in size, and usually, do not grow into cancer. Adenomas are polyps that most often result in cancerous growths, although not every single polyp of this variety will be cancer. There are four types of adenomas that can grow in a polyp, and your doctor will look at them microscopically to verify which they are. Tubular, Villous, Sessile and Serrated are the specific types you might hear talk of.
Most people do not know right away that they have a polyp. Most polyps cause no symptoms of anything being wrong. In most cases, polyps are found during routine medical care check-ups, colonoscopies, or visual examinations of the colon. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please consult your doctor. Having these symptoms does not mean that you have cancer! There are other explanations and possibilities your doctor will discuss with you upon examination.
- Fatigue and shortness of breath
- belly and abdominal pain
- black or red-streaked bowel movements
- constipation or diarrhea that lasts longer than a week
- blood in your stool, in the toilet bowl, or on the toilet paper after you wipe.
There are different tests that can be done to determine if you have polyps or something more serious. While these procedures might not be your favorite, as many people do not relish the thought of having a colonoscopy, they are very much needed to ensure your whole-body health.
- Colonoscopy is a camera on the end of a long, thin, flexible tube that is fed through your bowels, usually under light sedation. This does require an entire bowel clean-out, which your medical team will fill you in on during your prep appointment. During this procedure, biopsies can be taken for testing.
- Virtual colonoscopy is a CT colonography that uses x-rays and technology to give a guided view of your colon and intestines.
- A stool test is just what it sounds like. Your doctor will examine a specimen of your fecal matter to test for blood. If there is blood, you will most likely be scheduled for a colonoscopy.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy happens when your doctor feeds a thin tube with light into your anus to look around at the lower portion of your colon. If you have a polyp, it will be removed during this time.
- Lower gastrointestinal series is done by drinking a thick, chalk-like liquid called barium, which lights up your colon during x-rays. This allows your physician to see what is happening inside.
The best treatment for a polyp is removal, and the best method for removal will be determined by your doctor and all factors of your medical care. Some doctors will perform a polypectomy during the colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy, while other larger polyps will require more invasive surgery to remove.
Living a healthy lifestyle and avoiding certain risk factors can lessen your chance of being diagnosed with polyps. Here are some suggestions on improving health factors in your life to reduce your risk of polyps.
- With a family history of polyps or colon cancer, follow your doctors lead on when screening should begin.
- Ask about your supplement intake, and if adding calcium and vitamin D supplements might be helpful for you.
- Limit consumption of red meat, processed meats and foods, and those that are high in fat content.
- Get yourself healthier by losing any extra weight.
- Eat a diet with lots of natural foods: fruits, vegetables, and fiber-rich things like legumes, and high-fiber cereals.
Colon Cancer Center