Colon Polyps: The Good & The Bad

Medically reviewed by: Gary H. Hoffman, MD

Polyps.  Good One’s.  Bad One’s.

Because of intense public education and awareness, it is now common knowledge that colon or rectal polyps can lead to colon cancer if the polyps are not removed.  Polyps are removed during a routine screening colonoscopy. Current recommendations are that all healthy adults over the age of 50 should have a colonoscopy every 5 years.  There is a segment of the population that should be screened earlier and more often because of a strong family history. But, for the average individual, colonoscopy every 5 years beginning at the age of 50 is the rule.

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But What is All Of The Fuss Over Polyps?  And What Are Polyps?

The lining of the colon and rectum is termed the mucosa.  The mucosa is soft and helps to solidify the stool.  The mucosa is exposed to bacteria and any toxins in the stool that are not treated or absorbed during digestion.  The lining is also exposed to external environmental hazards such as radiation.

When, through exposure, or through genetic predisposition, the lining begins to grow faster than the surrounding tissue, a polyp is formed.  The polyp is composed of the normal cells of the mucosa, except that they have begun to grow beyond control. Eventually, they may transform into a cancer.  And, importantly, polyps usually cause no symptoms, meaning that the patient is unaware of having polyps in the colorectal lining.

Polyps Be Gone!

If the polyps are removed in the early stages before malignant (cancerous) transformation, all is well and only a follow up colonoscopy will be needed in several years.  If however, the polyps are not found and remove, a cancer may form and grow.

There are 2 common types of polyps, the hyperplastic polyp and the adenomatous polyp. The adenomatous polyps are further subdivided into 3 groups, the tubular adenoma, the tubulovillous adenoma and the villous adenoma.  These are all fancy medical terms for a “bad” type of polyp.   There is also a serrated adenoma which has an even higher risk of malignant transformation.

Polyps.  Hyperplastic And Adenomatous.

The hyperplastic polyp rarely becomes a cancer.  It can be removed during a colonoscopy and should present no further problems.

The family of adenomatous polyps presents a different story.  They have a proclivity to transform into a malignancy…unless they are removed during a colonoscopy.  Adenomatous polyps have between a 5% and 40% chance of becoming a colorectal cancer, depending on which type of polyp exists on the lining.  Additionally,  the larger the polyp, the greater the chance that it will become a cancer or already is a cancer.  Polyps less than 1 cm in size are less often troublesome.  Over 1 cm in size, and the polyp has a greater chance of harboring or developing a malignancy.

From this it is obvious that obtaining a colon and rectal screening via a colonoscopy, barium enema (an X-ray) or virtual colonoscopy (an X-ray), will lessen your chances that you will have to deal with a colon or rectal cancer.

Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates

In Los Angeles, Beverly Hills or Culver City, there are colon and rectal surgeons, also known as proctologists or colorectal surgeons who are trained to evaluate you and screen you for polyps.  The surgeons at Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates are board certified and spend a great deal of time educating patients and screening patients in an attempt to help them remain healthy.  You must take the first step and make an appointment to see a physician.  (310)273-2310

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