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colon cancer prevention 4 Steps to Colon Cancer Prevention

Colon Cancer Fact of the Day

A colon polyp is a small mass of cells that forms on the lining of the colon. Although most colon polyps are harmless, some polyps can develop into colon cancer if they are not detected and removed.

Symptoms

In most cases, colon polyps do not cause symptoms. If left to grow, large colon polyps may cause bleeding or a colon obstruction, which could lead to constipation, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. It is important to know your Colonoscopy Age [hyperlink to Colonoscopy Age page] and have regular colonoscopies so colon polyps can be removed safely and completely. You cannot rely on your overall health or lack of symptoms as assurance that you do not have colon polyps. A thorough colonoscopy is the only way to know that you are colon cancer-free.

Risk

Anyone can develop colon polyps. You are at higher risk if you’re 50 or older, are overweight or a smoker, or have a personal or family history of colon polyps or colon cancer. If you exhibit any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor about when to get a baseline colonoscopy. Some individuals need to be screened earlier, screened more often or both.

Types of polyps

  • Adenomatous. About two-thirds of all polyps are adenomatous. Only a small percentage of them actually become cancerous. But nearly all malignant polyps are adenomatous.
  • Serrated. Depending on their size and location in the colon, serrated polyps may become cancerous. Larger serrated polyps, or sessile polyps, are typically flat, difficult to detect and are located in the upper colon. These tend to be precancerous.
  • Inflammatory. These polyps may follow a flare-up of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease of the colon. Although the polyps themselves are not a significant threat, having ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease of the colon increases your overall risk of colon cancer.

Do polyps always mean colon cancer?

Having colon polyps increases the likelihood to have more polyps in the future, but it does not necessarily mean that you have colon cancer. Having polyps will probably mean that you will have frequent colonoscopies because polyps can move progressively from noncancerous to cancerous. The best defense against colon cancer are regular colonoscopies, but only your doctor can advise you on how frequently you need to be screened.