Colon Polyps -- Five Key Facts You Should Know
Pittsburgh Medical Malpractice Attorneys
- WHAT IS A POLYP?A polyp is an abnormal growth of tissue projecting out from the inner walls of the large intestine, also known as the colon. Polyps in the colon are very common and their incidence increases as we get older. It is estimated that 50% of the people over the age of 60 will harbor at least one polyp in their colon.
- NOT ALL POLYPS ARE CREATED EQUALThere are several different types of polyps in the colon. The type of colon polyp that is most frequently associated with the development of colon cancer is called the adenoma or adenomatous polyp. Not every adenoma will turn to colon cancer but almost all colon cancer begins its life as an adenomatous polyp. Therefore, the very first thing you will need to ask your doctor when they tell you that a polyp was removed from your colon is: Was the polyp an adenoma?
- WITH ADENOMATOUS POLYPS, SIZE MATTERS The larger the adenomatous polyp, the more likely that polyp will turn into colon cancer. For example, a polyp that reaches 2 cm (nearly an inch) in size carries a greater than 20% risk of already containing colon cancer.
- TUBULAR, VILLOUS, AND TUBULO-VILLOUS ADENOMAS When your adenomatous polyp is removed it will be sent to the hospital's pathology department for microscopic evaluation. Based on this microscopic evaluation, your adenoma will be classified as "tubular", "villous" or tubulo-villous". What you need to know is that tubular adenomas carry the least risk of cancer and villous adenomatous polyps carry the greatest cancer risk. A large villous polyp carries a significant risk of cancer. For example, the risk of colon cancer associated with a villous adenomatous polyp in excess of 4 cm in size approaches 40%.
- PEDUNCULATED POLYPS VS. SESSILE POLYPS Some adenomatous polyps grow on stocks or stems and look like mushrooms. These are called pedunculated polyps. Other adenomatous polyps grow flat against the wall of the colon. These flatter adenomas are called sessile polyps. The important thing to know is that pedunculated polyps are easier to remove during colonoscopy than sessile polyps. In fact, it is very difficult to completely remove a sessile polyp during a colonoscopy. If you are told that a large sessile adenomatous polyp was found in your colon, you will probably need surgery to make sure that the entire polyp is removed.