A colonoscopy is a preventative procedure that is designed to look for the presence of colon cancer or potentially cancerous growths known as polyps. Most colonoscopies are uneventful, which is what you hope for during a screening exam, but in some instances the gastrointestinal specialists spots one or more polyps. What happens if polyps are uncovered during your colonoscopy, and what can you expect to happen next? We explain what the next steps will look like if polyps are found during your colon cancer screening.
Colonoscopies and Polyp Discovery
Colon polyps are small growths on the inside lining of your large intestine. They aren’t always cancerous, but they can carry a high risk of becoming cancerous if they are not detected early and removed, which is why colon cancer screening is so important. These polyps are actually quite common, as the data suggests about one in four adults will have a polyp by the age of 60. However, it’s unlikely that you’d be aware of its presence unless it was uncovered during a colonoscopy because most do not produce symptoms.
If a polyp or abnormal growth is detected, it’s important to take a breath and know that this does not necessarily mean that the growths are cancerous. In fact, most polyps are noncancerous, but the issue is that their likelihood of becoming cancerous increases as the growth becomes larger. Again, this speaks to the importance of early detection and treatment.
Since there is an increased risk of cancer if the polyps are allowed to continue to grow, treatment will involve removing them. In many instances, the polyps can be removed during the initial colonoscopy, so you may not need to undergo a second procedure. If a follow-up appointment is needed, a similar approach will be used to remove the polyps.
After the polyps have been removed, they will be sent to a lab for testing. This will allow your care team to determine if the polyps are cancerous, precancerous or noncancerous. Your next steps will vary based on the results from the lab, with additional testing and cancer treatments if the polyps come back positive. If they are precancerous or noncancerous, no additional treatment may be needed, but your gastrointestinal specialist will want you to set up more frequent screening exams to help catch any future polyps. If you already had polyps, you’re at a heightened risk for future or returned growths, which is why additional screening tests are recommended.
Learning that polyps were detected and removed can be scary, but it can also help save your life by catching an issue before it turns into cancer. So if you are over the age of 50 or you are at an elevated risk for colon cancer, now is the time to set up your colonoscopy and put your health first. If you’d like to learn more about your colon cancer screening or treatment options, reach out to Dr. Bhatti and the team at Bhatti GI Consultants today.