Colon Polyps (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
Exams and Tests
Unless colon polyps are large and cause bleeding or pain, the only way to know if you have polyps is to have one or more tests that explore the inside surface of your colon.
Several tests can be used to detect colon polyps. Two of these exams, flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy, also can be used to collect tissue samples (called a biopsy) or to remove colon polyps. All the tests may be used to screen for colon polyps and colon cancer and as follow-up tests after colon polyps have been removed. There are two basic types of tests—stool tests and tests that look inside your body.
Tests that look inside your body
Screening for colon cancer
Screening for colon cancer with a single test or a combination of tests reduces your chance of having complications and dying from colon cancer. Experts recommend routine colon cancer testing for everyone age 50 and older who has a normal risk for colon cancer. People with a higher risk, such as African Americans and people with a strong family history of colon cancer, may need to be tested sooner. Talk to your doctor about when you should be tested.
If you are older than 50, screening may lower your risk of dying from colon cancer. Screening options include the following tests.
The method of screening that you have depends on your personal preferences, your doctor's preferences, and what the clinic or office you go to is able to do.
People with a higher risk for colon cancer, such as African Americans and people with a strong family history of colon cancer, may need to be tested sooner. Talk to your doctor about when you should be tested.
If you have a family history of familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), you should start screening tests at age 10 or 12.
If you have a family history of hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC), you should have a colonoscopy every 1 to 2 years starting at age 20 to 25, or 10 years younger than the age at which the youngest family member who has colorectal cancer was diagnosed, whichever comes first.
The decisions about when to start and stop screening for colon cancer should be made with your doctor. These decisions will depend on how old you are, your family history, any health problems you may have, and the benefits you can expect from regular screening.
Most doctors agree that if you have had one or more adenomatous polyps removed, you probably need regular follow-up colonoscopy exams every few years. This type of polyp is more likely to turn into cancer, but that risk is still very low. How often you need a colonoscopy may depend on the number and size of the polyps, your age, your health, and other risk factors that you may have for polyps. Talk with your doctor about the follow-up testing schedule that is right for you.
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