I Have Colon Polyps: Now What?

Your medical results

When your colonoscopy discovers polyps, what should you do?

You know it's important to have a colonoscopy periodically. You hope the doctor finds nothing -- but what if the doctor finds "something"? 

"Finding out you have colon polyps doesn’t have to be frightening," says Gottumukkala S. Raju, M.D., professor in the Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. "Most colon polyps are not cancer. Yet, certain kinds of polyps may make you more likely to develop colon cancer." 

The colon is part of the large intestine. A colon polyp is a growth on the inside lining of the colon. Polyps can be different shapes and sizes, including:

  • Raised on stems like mushrooms
  • Found on the surface of the colon, like a mushroom without a stalk
  • Found flat on the surface of the colon, like a pancake

When a doctor removes a polyp during a colonoscopy, it is sent to a pathologist for examination under a microscope. The pathologist determines if it is:

  • Hyperplastic polyp, which is not cancer 
  • Adenomatous polyp, which is not cancer but can become cancer if it is not removed 
  • Malignant polyp, which is cancer

"It’s important for you to know all about the polyps your doctor found during your last colonoscopy," says Dr. Raju. 

Know your polyp history

Dr. Raju recommends that everyone review their last colonoscopy report and make note of what was found, such as:

  • Number of polyps
  • Type of each polyp
  • Size of each polyp

You can get a copy of your colonoscopy report by calling the clinic or doctor who performed it. Ask for both the colonoscopy and pathology reports. These will indicate the type, number and size of polyps the doctor found.

Share your polyp information with your doctor at the next check-up. The doctor uses this information to determine if your chance of getting colon cancer is higher than normal. This information also tells the doctor when and how often you should get a colonoscopy.

For instance, M. D. Anderson provides detailed colonoscopy screening recommendations based on a person's polyp history. This information can be found at www.mdanderson.org/screeningguidelines.

"Following colon cancer screening guidelines greatly helps reduce a person’s chances of getting colon cancer," explains Dr. Raju. "During a colonoscopy, the doctor has the opportunity to remove suspicious polyps before they turn into cancer."

For more information on the colonoscopy and colon cancer prevention, visit www.mdanderson.org/focusedonhealth.