Colon polyps and their role in colon cancer
Colon cancer is the fourth most common form of cancer in adult men and women, according to the CDC, and is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths. Regular colonoscopies, where the colon is examined utilizing a camera, can help not just to locate colon cancer early in its development, but also to locate colon polyps, which can help to prevent cancer from developing before it begins.
In this short video, Veeral Oza, MD, a gastroenterologist and interventional endoscopist with Prisma Health, explained what colon polyps are and their role in the development of colon cancer.
“Our body is involved in making subtle microscopic molecular-level repairs on a second-to-second basis,” said Dr. Oza. “There’s mechanisms in place that prevent normal cells from continuing to divide or repair itself. A mutation in these genes can cause those control mechanisms to stop functioning effectively. Cells continue to divide uncontrollably, becoming polyps and potentially becoming colon cancer later on.”
While most colon cancers develop after the age of 45, Dr. Oza noted that those with a family history or genetic predisposition should schedule regular colonoscopies at a younger age. Colon cancer often has no noticeable symptoms until it has grown significantly, and so preventative screenings like colonoscopies are one of the best tools we have to locate and remove growths before they become malignant.
“We cannot differentiate between colon polyps that turn into cancer and those that do not,” said Dr. Oza. “When we locate polyps, we remove them.”
The majority of polyps are able to be removed during the colonoscopy, though some do require further surgical removal. They may regrow and new ones removed at a later date, but many do not regrow.
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