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The Fight Against Colorectal Cancer: Why It Is Essential To Remove Colon Polyps

Colorectal cancer is a malignant disease characterized by the uncontrolled growth of cancer cells in the colon or rectum, which are vital parts of the digestive system. The urgency of addressing this condition promptly cannot be overstated, as it has the potential to lead to life-threatening consequences. When cancer cells proliferate within the colon or rectal tissues, they can infiltrate surrounding structures, invade nearby organs, and spread to distant sites in the body through metastasis.

Removing colon polyps is critical because these abnormal growths in the colon or rectum can develop into cancerous tumours over time. Although not all polyps will become cancerous, a substantial percentage of colorectal cancers originate from precancerous polyps. This fact underscores the significance of identifying and removing these growths as a preventive measure against colorectal cancer. 

Read this article to get a clear understanding of colorectal cancer prevention.

What is a colon polyp? What are the different types of colon polyps?  

Put plainly, a colon polyp is an unusual growth that forms in the inner lining of the colon (large intestine) and the rectum. These growths consist of a cluster of cells that protrude from the interior surface of the colon and rectum. They can take on various shapes and sizes, and understanding these distinctions is important for their management and potential impact on health. Depending on the shape and size of the colon polyp, it is named as follows;

  • Adenomatous (Tubular Adenoma): Adenomatous polyps are the most common type of colon polyps. They have a somewhat raised, tubular structure. While the majority of colon polyps are of this type, it’s important to note that not all adenomatous polyps will become cancerous. However, their removal is typically recommended as a preventive measure.
  • Hyperplastic: Hyperplastic polyps, on the other hand, have a flat structure and extend outward from the lining of the colon. While they are usually benign (non-cancerous), certain subtypes of hyperplastic polyps can carry a small risk of developing into cancer.
  • Sessile Serrated: Sessile serrated polyps are small structures typically found in the lower part of the intestine. They are named for their smooth, sessile appearance. Some sessile serrated polyps have a potential risk of progressing to cancer and are often closely monitored or removed during colonoscopy.
  • Inflammatory (Pseudopolyps): Inflammatory polyps, also known as pseudopolyps, are found in individuals with inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. These polyps result from the inflammation associated with these conditions and are generally non-cancerous. The presence of these polyps indicates the presence of an underlying inflammatory condition.
  • Villous Adenoma (Tubulovillous Adenoma): Villous adenomas exhibit a villous (fringed or finger-like) structure. These polyps have a higher likelihood of becoming cancerous compared to tubular adenomas. Their removal is typically recommended due to their malignant potential.
  • Complex or Defiant Polyps: Complex or defiant polyps are typically larger polyps, exceeding two centimetres in size, and are often sessile, meaning they have a flat and broad attachment to the colon lining. These polyps may present challenges for removal due to their size and structure, and they are closely monitored or surgically removed when necessary.

How are colon polyps related to colorectal cancer prevention?  

While colon polyps may start as harmless growths, their potential to develop into cancer underscores the importance of their removal. Removing colon polyps from the intestine is an effective and essential preventive measure against colorectal cancer. By removing these precancerous growths, the risk of malignant transformation is significantly reduced.

The reason for removing colon polyps is twofold. First, it eliminates the potential source of cancerous cells. Second, it allows for pathological examination of the removed polyps to assess their type, size, and degree of dysplasia (abnormal cell development). This information helps guide further surveillance and treatment decisions.

In summary, although colon polyps are initially non-cancerous, certain types, such as tubular adenomas, hyperplastic, sessile serrated, and tubulovillous adenomas, can evolve into malignant tumours. To mitigate this risk, it is recommended to remove these polyps from the intestine through procedures like colonoscopy. This preventive action can significantly reduce the likelihood of colorectal cancer development and underscores the importance of early intervention and monitoring in the context of colorectal health.

Also read: Surviving GI tract cancers: Dr. Kanchan stresses symptom awareness and regular screenings 

What are the symptoms of colon polyps?

The biggest challenge of colon polyp is that, in most cases, it has no symptoms. Early screening is the most reliable way to catch colon polyps. However, it is imperative that people consult a doctor if they experience the following symptoms; 

  • Persistent abdominal pain (rare symptom caused by colon polyps)
  • Bleeding from the rectum or anus
  • Unexplained anaemia 
  • Unexplained weight loss 
  • Constipation 
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Red or black coloured stools

How are colon polyps diagnosed?

  • Colonoscopy: It is a process that involves a long flexible tube called a coloscope that is inserted into the rectum to check for polyps or cancer. A tiny video camera helps the doctor view the insides of the colon through a video monitor. Polyps are removed during the coloscopy if it is big enough. 
  • Sigmoidoscopy: It is a diagnostic test where a thin, flexible tube called a sigmoidoscope is inserted into the lower colon. It has light and a camera for visibility. It is also used to blow air to check the insides. 
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan: It is the process of taking X-ray images of the colon from different angles to check for the presence of abnormal tissues. 
  • Stool tests: An individual’s stool is tested in the lab for polyps, abnormal tissues or DNA changes that suggest possible colorectal cancer.
  • Biopsy: A sample of the tissue is taken and tested in lab conditions. The biopsy is the most reliable method to check whether the tumour is benign or malignant.

How are colon polyps removed?

  • Polypectomy: Polypectomy is the process of removing colon polyps from the inner lining of the intestine. Polyps are cut out with a tube with a tool that is inserted through the rectum. 
  • Laparoscopy: It is a minimally invasive surgical technique that involves a small incision in the abdomen to pass a laparoscope into the body, aimed at removing colon polyps and inspecting the abdominal organs.
  • Total proctocolectomy: A portion of the colon or rectum is removed if the patient suffers from a condition like familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) to prevent colon cancer. 
  • Endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR): EMR process is similar to polypectomy, but it cuts into mucosa below the polyp to rip it off.
  • Endoscopic submucosal dissection (ESD): It is a process used to operate large polyps. It involves an electrosurgical cutting device to cut into the submucosa layer below the polyp.

What are the risk factors for colon polyps?

  • Age: Colon polyps are mostly reported in people above 50 years of age. People above 50 should get themselves tested for colon polyps or colorectal cancer. It is imperative for people to remember that colorectal cancer occurs in younger people, so it is safer to undergo testing and screening once a year or in six months. 
  • IBD or Inflammatory bowel disease: People with IBD, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease are vulnerable to intestine inflammation, a major risk factor for colorectal cancer. One should get treated for this illness and get screened per the doctor’s instructions. 
  • Genetic: People with genetic conditions like hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer or HNPCC, familial adenomatous polyposis or FAP, attenuated familial adenomatous polyposis or AFAP, Gardner syndrome, Juvenile polyposis syndrome or JPS, Muir-Torre syndrome, MYH-associated polyposis or MAP, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome or PJS, and Turcot syndrome, are vulnerable to colorectal cancer. 
  • Family history: People with a family history of colorectal cancer are twice as at risk of developing the disease. It includes people other than first-degree relatives, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. As per several studies, 5% to 6% of cases of colorectal cancer are linked to inherited genetic mutations.
  • Lifestyle: Self-destructive habits like excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, chewing tobacco, and drug abuse increases colorectal cancer risk, like other cancer types. Obesity and prolonged sitting may have a higher risk of colorectal cancer. Lack of fibre intake and excess sugar, red meat and processed food consumption increase the risk of colorectal cancer.

In conclusion,

The prevention of any disease is possible through a combination of a healthy lifestyle, occasional screening, and procedures like removing colon polyps. Weight management, a balanced diet, and physical exercises keep the body energetic. There are factors people cannot control, like genetic disorders, but keeping track of health through occasional testing and screening processes helps in the prevention of a deadly condition like colorectal cancer.


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