Colon Polyps

What are polyps?

Polyps form with the abnormal growths of tissues protruding from a mucous membrane. Polyps can develop in stomachs, noses and many other parts of the body. They are often found in a colon, which is the last part of the digestive system and is also called a large intestine. It is important to get any presence of polyps checked up as these can develop into cancer and other serious problems.

Colon polyps are fleshy growths which appear on the inside of the colon or on its lining. Colon polyps are very common and if not treated with proper care can develop into serious problems. It is known that many people in the United States die of colon cancer. This cancer is formed when the polyps in the colon become too large or are pre cancerous in nature since their formation started inside the colon. A person can have one or even more than one polyps present inside their colon. A polyp which is malignant will turn into cancer and a benign polyp is not cancerous but it should still be checked by a doctor.

How would you know if you have a polyp?

Although many people don’t have any symptoms of polyps even when they have them yet there are many signs associated with the presence of a polyp inside the colon. Some of these symptoms include;

  • Bleeding from the anus
  • Seeing blood in your stool
  • Constipation
  • Long lasting spells of diarrhea
  • Black stool or red streaks in stool. Sometimes blood makes stool look black

If any of these symptoms persist for a long time or have become a permanent part of your routine, then it is best for you to visit your doctor. Even if you have not experienced any of these symptoms so far but you are above 50, you should get a regular check up for polyps. Sometimes there might be presence of occult blood in your stool. This blood is not with the naked eye and a stool test will have to be conducted to see this. There are many ways in which a doctor will check for polyps;

Barium enema is the most common way. In this a doctor will insert liquid called barium into the rectum which makes the intestine look white in color. When the intestine turns white, the doctor can easily detect the polyps as they are dark in color.

Another test is sigmoidoscopy in which the doctor puts a flexible tube with light attached at the end. This enables the doctor to see inside the intestine.

A more effective method is the colonoscopy which is similar to the sigmoidoscopy. The doctor inserts a tube inside the rectum and the camera in the tube will take images of the large intestine. These images will be monitored on a screen by the doctor. A tool in the colonoscope tube is capable of removing the polyps as the doctor sees them.

A very simple method for those who want to avoid such complicated tests is the stool test. This only requires the patient to give a sample of his/her stool which will be tested in the laboratories and it will be checked if the polyps have caused any signs of cancerous cells or not.

The polyps can become cancerous are called adenomatous polyps or adenomas. Adenomas account for more than seventy five percent of the colon polyps and a special type of adenomas polyps called the villous adenomas are the most likely to convert to cancer. Along with the type of the polyp, the size will also determine the seriousness of the situation. As the polyps grow bigger in size, they will eventually form cancer. So if you let the polyps in your colon grow bigger in size, you are welcoming higher chances of developing a colon cancer. It is advisable to remove the polyps as soon as they are detected by doctors no matter which size they are.

What can be done to prevent polyps from forming in the colon?

  • Dietary changes are the most effective in your routine. Including more fiber in your diet will prevent the formation of colon polyps
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables to keep yourself away from fatty food
  • Broccoli and cauliflower are known to fight against colon related problems
  • Avoid drinking alcohol
  • Make exercise part of your daily routine
  • Try to lose weight if you think you are a bit too fat according to your age and height
  • Calcium lowers risk of polyps. So it is best to include in your diet eatables which are high in calcium content. These might include cheese, milk, yogurt and even broccoli
  • It is said that a little dose of aspirin everyday will also prevent polyps from forming in the colon. But this should not be done on your own. Before deciding to take any aspirin, you should consult your doctor and ask him about the appropriate dose

Why should polyp be treated with so much concern?

This is because defective genes cause the polyps to develop inside the colon which can later develop into cancer. Defective genes are the result of the chromosomes being damaged and these defective genes no longer do the job of keeping a check on the production of cells. When this happens, the cells start growing rapidly and this unrestrained production of cells inside the colon develop polyps. As genes were already defective, these defects can cause further problems in the polyp and the polyp can become cancerous.

These genetic defects can either be inherited from a parent or can be acquired during one’s life. This is why doctors recommend all the people above 40 to have their stool test and all the people above 50 to have colonoscopy or the sigmoidoscopy for the detection of polyps. People who have already been diagnosed of the presence of the polyps will have to get regular checkups as polyps have the tendency to grow back again even after they have been removed once.