A colon polyp is a growth of extra tissue in the lining of the bowel, colon or large intestine. While some can be cancerous, most are not. However, almost all cases of colon cancer begin as a polyp. Removing polyps early eliminates the chance that colon cancer will develop from those polyps. By following the recommended guidelines for colon cancer screening, your doctor can find colon polyps and remove them, BEFORE they become cancerous.
In most cases, colon cancer develops without any symptoms. As the disease advances, symptoms may appear and include the following:
- Asymptomatic (no symptoms)
- Blood in the stool
- Change in bowel habits
- Irregular bowel habits
- Weight loss
Risk factors for developing colon polyps or colon cancer include:
- Age: over 50 (45 for African Americans)
- Genetics: personal or family history of colon polyps or colon cancer
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
- Lifestyle habits: smoking, excessive alcohol intake, diet high in fat
When to See a Doctor
If you are 50 or older (45 for African Americans), it’s time. Ninety percent of new colon cancer cases are diagnosed in people age 50+ and the American College of Gastroenterology recommends a colonoscopy as the best colon cancer screening tool beginning at age 50 for healthy adults. For some people, screening should begin earlier. If you are experiencing symptoms or have other risk factors, talk to your doctor about when screening should start for you.
The foremost diagnostic "test" for any condition is a thorough exam and consultation with a physician, including a review of your individual and family history. In addition, your physician may recommend any of the following tests or procedures, which may provide further diagnostic value:
Colon cancer, unlike most other forms of cancer, is PREVENTABLE. So it might be surprising to hear that colon cancer is the third deadliest form of cancer among men and women in the U.S. By following the recommended guidelines for colon cancer screening, your doctor can find colon polyps and remove them BEFORE they become cancerous.