Colon polyps often do not cause symptoms. They are often discovered when the patient is tested for something different. However, your doctor may want to remove the polyps if they are cancerous or have the potential to turn into cancer. Flat or large polyps are more likely to cause colon cancer than other types. It is important to get these removed to reduce your cancer risk.
What Are Colon Polyps?
According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), a colon polyp is a growth on the surface of the colon or large intestine. A polyp can be raised or flat, and some people have more than one polyp. Polyps can be benign or cancerous or have the potential to develop into cancer. The NDDIC says people older than 50 are more likely to have polyps, as well as patients who have relatives who have had colon cancer or polyps. You are also likely to develop polyps if you drink alcohol, smoke, eat fatty foods, do not exercise or are obese. While many people don't show symptoms, sometimes polyps can cause blood in stool or bleeding from the anus. According to an article at John Hopkins Health Alerts, an "analysis revealed that the flat lesions were more than five times as likely to be cancerous as similarly sized regular polyps."
Polyps are removed during a colonoscopy. During a colonoscopy, your doctor will insert a long, flexible tube into your rectum and into the colon. He will be able to examine the entire large intestine. The tube has a camera on the end, as well as an instrument to remove polyps. You will be sedated during this procedure.
Preparation for a colonoscopy can be an unpleasant experience. Patients are given medication a day or two before the procedure to make sure the colon is flushed out so the doctor can get a clear view. Flat polyps are difficult to see if the colon is not totally clean. Those medications often cause diarrhoea. It's important to follow your doctor's instructions to stay hydrated and also to make sure the preparation works so you do not need to go through it again. It's also important to stay hydrated after the procedure.
Sometimes the removal of large polyps can cause excessive bleeding in the colon. In some cases, although rare, the colon could be torn. This may require surgery or hospitalisation. There is also a risk of allergic reaction to medications, infection or heart problems. Some patients also report abdominal pain, sharp pains, cramping and vomiting after a colonoscopy.
According to the NDDIC, there is no sure way to prevent polyps. You can lower your risk by losing weight, avoiding alcohol, not smoking, eating less fatty foods and more fruits and vegetables and starting a regular exercise program.
Other Tests and Procedures
Laparoscopic surgery may be used to remove larger polyps. According to the Mayo Clinic, if your doctor suspects colon cancer, she may run additional tests other than the colonoscopy to confirm and determine treatment. Your doctor may run blood tests to determine organ function and other factors. You may also be asked to have a barium enema to give doctors another view of your colon. Barium, a contrast dye, is injected into your bowel in an enema form. A CAT scan may also be used.