Colon cancer is a major health problem in the United States. It ranks as a leading form of cancer, along with lung and breast cancer. Colon cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer. When detected early, more than 90 percent of patients can be cured.

What is a colon polyp?

A polyp is a growth that occurs in the colon and other organs. These growths are shaped like a mushroom or dome-like button, and occur in the inside lining of the colon. They can be very small, or larger than a golf ball. It is important to note that colon polyps start out as benign tumors, but can develop into a malignancy. In fact, the larger the polyp, the more likely it is to contain cancer cells. In most cases, it is a polyp called an adenoma polyp that develops into colon cancer.

What are the likely Risk Factors for Developing Colon Polyps and Cancer?

  • Family history of colon polyps or colon cancer
  • Western civilization and diet
  • Being over 40 years of age
  • History of breast cancer
  • Ulcerative colitis

Why do polyps form?

As stated above, heredity is probably the most important factor. Other factors are also known. Residents of Africa and India rarely develop polyps or cancer of the colon. Their diets are high in unprocessed grains and low in meat. The animal fat in meat may change into certain compounds called carcinogens. These compounds cause colon cancer in laboratory animals. Diet does seem to play an important role in causing colon cancer.


  • Medical History - the patient’s medical history will identify the presence of risk factor for colon polyps and cancer.
  • Stool exams to detect occult (hidden) blood - colon cancers and large polyps can release minute quantities of blood.
  • Colonoscopy - this procedure examines the entire colon. The exam is done under sedation, and is the most definitive test for colon polyps.

Removal of polyps

Removal of polyps reduces the risk of developing cancers of the colon. Polyps are removed through the colon scope. The physician can visualize the inside of the colon. Biopsy equipment and snares (wire loops) are passed through the endoscope. The physician then removes the polyp using electrical heat. No pain is caused by this procedure. Polyps are then sent to the pathologist to review. Based on the type of polyp, recommendations are then made for future colon exams.


Cancer of the colon is a serious but readily detected malignancy. Early detection promises particularly high chances of survival. Most colon cancers begin as polyps, which can usually be removed during a colonoscopy. Early detection is key to preventing this cancer.