It’s not uncommon to hear the surgeon say “polyps” after having a routine colonoscopy, but many patients don’t understand what this term really means, nor the effect polyps have on the body. While most polyps pose no immediate threat to your health, it’s important to understand what they are and why surgeons screen for more serious health conditions during colonoscopies.
To really understand what a polyp is, you must understand where they come from. Cells all over the body are constantly dividing and multiplying to replenish the cells that are dying. The cells that line the colon are constantly dying and being replaced by new cells. A mutation can cause cells to multiply abnormally. A polyp is basically a group of cells that build up on the colon’s lining due to abnormal growth from a cell mutation.
Mutations and cell growth sound a lot like cancer, but it’s important to recognize that most polyps are completely harmless; the human body is exceptionally good at stopping polyps from growing into cancer. Unfortunately, there are times where polyps can get “out of control” and turn into colon cancer. A general rule is that the larger the polyp, the more likely it is to turn into cancer.
Although some people with polyps experience symptoms such as rectal bleeding or changes in bowel habits, polyps typically do not cause any obvious sign or symptom. With no symptom, detecting polyps can be difficult, which is why it’s important to screen for polyps regularly. If the polyp is removed early, it can prevent the development of more serious conditions like colon cancer. If a polyp has turned into cancer, then early detection is imperative for effective treatment. Dr. Elijah Mobley is a general surgeon with years of experience treating the community of Victorville, California.