On Polyps and Previous Colonoscopies
A patient's report of a previous colonoscopy as, “it was normal” or “it showed such and such” is not sufficent and may suggest something entirely different when said in non-medical terms. Many patients say they had polyps but “they were nothing”, “they were benign”, or “they were not cancerous”. These statements leave the gastroenterologist totally in the dark on the actual medical history.
Polyps are growths in the colon (large intestine) that may grow and possibly become cancer. When seen during colonoscopy (sometimes mis-spelled or mis-pronounced as colonostomy or colonoscophy or colostomy), polyps are removed, assuming they are PRE-CANCEROUS, as most polyps are. Polyps should never be referred to as CANCEROUS, because if it has cancer, then it is considered colon cancer at that point, not a polyp anymore. It is for this reason that polyps are always BENIGN (which means it does not have cancer in it).
Polyps and Future Medical Care
Polyps are nothing to worry about once they are removed, but it also means that you need follow-up colonoscopy exams to look for any more polyps that may develop in the future. Once you had polyps, it is important to do colonoscopies a little more frequently, about every 3-5 years, than if you never had a polyp.
If you have a family history of colon cancer or polyps in close relatives, it is also a reason to perform this exam more frequently, about every 5 years. When to perform a repeat colonoscopy depends on several factors, some of which you may not be able to adequately communicate to your doctor, hence the need to have the actual report of previous colonoscopy and pathology reports. These would confirm if your polyps were precancerous or not. Repeat colonoscopy depends on:
- Presence of precancerous polyps
- How well your bowel prep was performed (i.e. how clean your colon was- small amount of stool, corn, seeds, etc. limit a full exam)
- If you have any inflammation in the colon such as Crohn’s or Colitis, when you may need frequent exams
- If your polyp was completely removed
- If your colon was completely examined, as sometimes the end may not be reached due to several reasons
- Your family history of colon cancer or polyps
- Your pathology report to confirm the nature of polyps
Contact the Gastroenterology Associates to discuss any of this information further. We will be happy to direct you in your quest for digestive health and treatment of any GI problems in Baton Rouge. Please call for an appointment at 225.927.1190.
Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician. Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.