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Why Polyps Are Such a Big Deal
Colon polyps | GI North | Cumming, GA

Dr. Cofrancesco and Dr. Quijano recommend routine colonoscopies starting at age 50 or if you have a family member that has had colon cancer.

Colon polyps are cellular clumps that form in the colon’s lining. They form because of abnormal cell growth and create more than the number of cells needed by the large intestine. Although most polyps are benign (not cancer), these growths can develop into malignant tumors if they aren’t removed. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that regular diagnostic tests are one of the most important ways to protect yourself from colon polyp growth. Indeed, the best way to avoid colon cancer is to receive regular colon screening tests and enjoy a healthy lifestyle.

All patients over the age of fifty should receive regular colon screens. African-American patients are at a statistically higher risk for colon cancer and should start regular screening by age forty-five, according to the NIH.

Identification

Many people learn they have polyps for the first time during a colonoscopy screening. Others experience rectal bleeding or notice blood in their stools. Dark stools, or those that look black or ‘tarry’ should be reported. Darker colored stools (not just red!) can indicate that blood is passing from the colon. Fatigue or anemia may also occur when a patient is losing blood in this manner.

Any change in fecal elimination should be reported to the doctor: obstruction of the bowel from a large polyp may be the cause. Depending on your age, family history, and other factors, the doctor may recommend annual screening tests including non-invasive fecal occult blood testing. GI North, a gastroenterologist practice located in Cumming, Georgia, recommends that all adult patients should receive regular screening tests for colon polyps.

Patients over the age of forty with one or more family members who have developed colon polyps are at higher risk than the general population. Some inflammatory diseases of the colon may add to the risk of developing malignant polyps. Mayo Clinic reports that one hundred fifty thousand new cases of colon cancer are reported and almost sixty thousand patients die from the disease each year.

Polyp Types

According to Harvard University School of Medicine, there are four primary kinds of colon polyps. Those resulting from inflammation in the colon are typically benign and found in patients with Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. Polyps of the lower rectum (i.e. ‘hyperplastic’ types) are seldom malignant.

Unfortunately, seventy percent of all colon polyps are identified as ‘tubular adenoma’ types. These polyps have a much higher statistical likelihood of developing into cancer as they increase in size. In addition, ‘villous adenoma’ types grow roots in the colon walls and place patients at the greatest risk for developing into malignant tumors over time.

Researchers at Harvard University School of Medicine also report that larger colon polyps are more likely to become cancerous regardless of type.

Causes and Causal Factors

Polyps may form as the result of gene mutations. Some families pass on genetic material that predisposes its members to develop cancers of the colon. Drs. Cofrancesco and Quijano collect a detailed patient history for each new patient. If the patient’s family history includes colon cancer, it is especially important to schedule regular diagnostic follow-ups in order to monitor and protect the patient’s health.

Colon Screening Tests

GI North physicians identify colon polyps if they are present during the patient’s colonoscopy test. A tiny tube with an attached video camera is passed through the patient’s colon. Similarly, a sigmoidoscopy focuses two feet of the sigmoid colon. Patients are mildly sedated to ensure comfort during either test type.

Colon polyps are immediately removed with a snare (part of the tube inserted into the colon) during either colon screening test. If larger polyps are identified, the doctors may recommend surgical removal. Regardless of size or appearance, all polyps are evaluated by a pathologist to determine if cancerous cells are present to protect the patient’s health outcomes.

Contact GI North

Colon cancer is a largely avoidable disease. We strongly recommend that our patients submit to regular screenings because, if caught early, colon cancer is ninety percent treatable.

Our patient-focused, bilingual (Spanish and English-speaking) practice continues to grow. Sergio Quijano, M.D. has recently joined us. GI North is conveniently located in suburban Atlanta: our office serves patients in and around Alpharetta, Roswell, Canton, East Cobb, Dawsonville, Dahlonega, Suwanee, and the greater metro area. Call us today at (404) 446-0600. We welcome new patients.

© 2014 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

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