A polyp is a benign, or non-cancerous, growth that occurs on the colon’s inner lining that can vary in size. The larger the polyp, the more likely it is that it can become cancerous. Small polyps can often be removed during colonoscopies. Having polyps, which cannot be removed by a colonoscopy, removed through colon surgery can help prevent them from becoming cancerous.
Cancer on the colon wall is a group of abnormal cells that grow at an uncontrolled rate. They can continue to grow and spread to other parts of the body such as lymph nodes (glands), liver and lungs. When it has spread, it is said to be metastatic. Colon cancer should be removed through surgery as soon as it is detected to prevent it from spreading, or metastasizing over time.
SYMPTOMS AND DIAGNOSIS
Many patients are asymptomatic, meaning they have no symptoms, this is why screening colonoscopies are so important. Regular screenings beginning at age 50 is the key to preventing colorectal cancer.
- Fecal Occult Blood Testing, which checks for hidden blood in three consecutive stool samples should be done every year.
- Colonoscopy, where physicians use a flexible, lighted tube/camera (colonoscopy) to look at the interior walls of the rectum and the entire colon, should be done every 10 years. During this procedure, samples of tissue may be collected for closer examination or polyps may be removed.
- Higher risk individuals should speak with their primary care physician or gastroenterologist about early or more frequent screening.