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What Is a Polyp? Colonoscopy Questions Answered

What is a polyp

A polyp is an abnormal growth of tissue that occurs on the protective linings of internal body parts. These protective linings are called mucous membranes and can be found along the digestive tract.

Colon polyps are commonly found on the lining of the rectum and colon.

Types of Polyps and What They Mean

Benign or Harmless Polyps

These are non-cancerous tissue growths. Although they’re not immediately dangerous, they can change into cancerous polyps over time. If one is found, your doctor will remove it before it has a chance to develop into cancer.

Malignant or Cancerous Polyps

Malignant polyps are cancerous. If your doctor finds these, they’ll want to act fast to determine the best treatment course. This might mean surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation to get rid of them.

Catching polyps early and treating them quickly is always best.

How Do I Know If I Have Polyps?

You might not know if you have polyps. It’s common to not show any symptoms, especially in the early stages. Polyps grow silently within the colon and can go unnoticed for a very long time. This is why regular screenings, like colonoscopies, are so important.

In some cases, though, there are signs to watch out for. Some indicators may be:

  • More frequent bowel movements
  • New constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Bright red or dark blood in your stool
  • Abdominal discomfort or pain
  • Gas pain or cramping
  • A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely

What Are My Risks For Developing Polyps?

Several factors can increase the likelihood of developing polyps, such as:

  • A family history of polyps
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use

The Importance of Colon Cancer Screening

Regular screening for colon cancer is essential, especially for those between 45 and 75 years old or those with identified risk factors.

A colonoscopy is the gold standard test used to diagnose polyps.

During this procedure, a long tube with a camera on the end is inserted through the anus and into the large intestine. This instrument allows the gastroenterologist to examine the lining of the colon and rectum. If polyps are detected, they can be removed, and a sample can be taken for biopsy to determine if cancer cells are present.

The procedure is usually done under light sedation, and you can return home the same day.

Colonoscopy Preparation

The process of preparing for a colonoscopy is straightforward.

You’ll need to take a laxative, which effectively clears out your colon. This ensures a clear view during the procedure.

You’ll switch to a clear liquid-only diet the day before your colonoscopy. This typically includes:

  • Clear broths and liquids
  • Water
  • Tea

Like the laxative, a clear liquid diet helps ensure your colon is clean so your doctor can see it clearly.

Should I Have a Colonoscopy?

You need a colonoscopy if:

  • You’re between 45 and 75 years old. This age group is at a higher risk for colon-related concerns, including polyps and cancer.
  • You’ve noticed significant changes in your bowel movements, such as persistent diarrhea, constipation, or changes in stool consistency and color and your doctor recommends a colonoscopy to investigate the cause.
  • You have a history of inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
  • You have concerns about your colon health or want to be proactive.

Early colon screening can catch polyps sooner rather than later, allowing prompt intervention long before they have a chance to become cancerous.

If you are 45 or older, don’t delay your colonoscopy any longer – schedule an appointment today!

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