GI Cancer and Polyps

A colorectal polyp is a growth that forms on of the lining of the colon or rectum. Polyps of the colon and rectum are usually non-cancerous. There may be single or multiple polyps in the colon or rectum, and they become more common as people age.

Over time, some types of polyps may develop into cancer. Polyps bigger than 1 centimeter have a greater cancer risk than polyps under 1 centimeter. Other risk factors include:

• Age 40-50yrs
• Family history of colon cancer or polyps
• A type of polyp called villous adenoma (adenomatous)

Colon Cancer Screening

Colonoscopy prevents colon cancer by removing polyps before they can become cancer. People over age 50 (45 for African Americans) should have colon cancer screening, which makes earlier diagnosis and treatment possible. Colonoscopy may reduce the odds of developing colon cancer and/or aid in diagnosing colon cancer at an early and treatable stage. Those with a family history of colon cancer or colon polyps may need to be screened at an earlier age. At MedStar Health, our specialists are experts in managing GI cancer and polyps. Even if you are not fifty, our doctors can evaluate you and tell you if you need colon cancer screening.

Polyps may also be associated with some inherited disorders, including:

• Familial adenomatous polyposis
• Gardner syndrome
• Juvenile polyposis
• Lynch syndrome (HNPCC)
• Peutz-Jeghers syndrome


Polyps usually have no symptoms, but occasionally produce:

• Abdominal pain (rare)
• Bloody stools
• Fatigue associated with anemia
• Rectal bleeding

A physical exam is usually normal; on rare occasions, a rectal examination may reveal a polyp that can be felt by a doctor.

Tests that show polyps include:

• Colonoscopy
• Barium enema
• Sigmoidoscopy
• Virtual colonoscopy


Over time, adenomatous colorectal polyps can develop into cancer and should be removed. In most cases, the polyps may be removed at the same time a colonoscopy is performed. For patients with adenomatous polyps, follow-up colonoscopy should be performed within -three to five years to see if the polyps have returned or if any new polyps have formed.

Rarely, for polyps with a high potential of becoming cancerous, the health care provider may recommend a colectomy (removal of a part of the colon).

To reduce the risk of developing polyps, physicians recommend:

• Eating a diet low in fat and high in fruits, vegetables and fiber
• Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake
• Maintaining a normal body weight

If symptoms persist call Gastrocure in West Orange, NJ at 973-736-1112 to schedule an appointment