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What Happens if a Polyp That Is Removed Contains Cancer?

what happens if a polyp that is removed contains cancer

While most people don’t look forward to a colonoscopy, they often expect to hear that the test was unremarkable and that their colon is free from abnormalities. But what happens if an abnormal growth is actually found? That can be a scary thought, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer.

Here is everything you need to know about colon cancer screening so you can feel prepared for any outcome of your colonoscopy, including the question: What happens if a polyp that is removed contains cancer?

What is a polyp?

Polyps are tiny clusters of cells that form on the colon’s lining. During your colonoscopy, your doctor will remove any and all polyps to send to the lab for examination.

What Do Polyps Look Like?

Polyps in the colon can appear in several different ways, including:

  • Pedunculated: Pedunculated polyps appear like a ball of tissue on the end of a stalk, like a broccoli floret or mushroom.
  • Sessile: Sessile polyps are smooth bumps on the lining of the colon.
  • Flat: Flat polyps have no raised portion, sometimes making them more difficult to see.
  • Depressed: Depressed polyps are rare and cause a slight dip or depression within the lining of the colon.

Types of Polyps

There are three main types of polyps to know about.

Adenomatous Polyps: These polyps can become cancerous, so they are considered precancerous and important to find and remove during your colonoscopy. They grow in different patterns, including tubular, villous, and tubulovillous.

  • Tubular adenomatous polyps develop in a small tubular shape.
  • Villous adenomas appear with finger-like or leaf-like projections.
  • Tubulovillous adenomas contain a mixture of both villous and tubular growth characteristics.

Hyperplastic Polyps: Hyperplastic polyps are the most common polyps removed during colonoscopies. Sometimes called inflammatory polyps, hyperplastic polyps are not considered precancerous and rarely become cancer. They’ll still be removed during your colonoscopy but aren’t as worrisome.

Sessile Serrated Polyps: Sessile serrated polyps (SSP) are similar to adenomatous polyps in that they can both progress into cancer. SSPs carry a high risk of cancer, can be hard to detect, and usually sit behind mucous in the colon, also making them important to find and be removed in any colon screening.

How Are Polyps Removed?

Polyps are painlessly removed during a colonoscopy. Using forceps or a snare inserted through the scope already inside your colon, your gastroenterologist will pull the polyp off the colon and out through the colonoscope tube.

How Are Polyps Examined?

After the polyp has been removed, it will be sent to a pathology lab for detailed examination by a pathologist. The pathologist carefully assesses the polyp’s tissue to determine the type of cells it contains and whether or not cancer cells are present.

What Happens if a Polyp That Is Removed Contains Cancer? 

If cancer is detected within the polyp, the first step was often already taken – removing the polyp. Depending on the lab analysis, you will likely receive additional diagnostic testing to ensure that any cancer that is present has the best chance of being thoroughly treated. Treatment may include another colonoscopy, surgery, chemotherapy, or other options, depending on the aggressiveness and extent of the cancer.

When To Speak With Your Doctor

The best treatment for colon cancer is prevention. Colon cancer screening with a colonoscopy is essential to catch precancerous growths early so that they do not turn into cancer. Everyone should have their first colonoscopy at age 45, and some may need them sooner or more frequently if they are at a higher risk.

Don’t delay your colonoscopy any longer — schedule an appointment today!

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