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Dr. Robert D. Fusco, Medical Director    
Removing a Colon Polyp

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Colon Polyp on Stalk
 
Mrs. J, a 41 year old receptionist, was referred to Dr. Fusco because of a family history of colon cancer. Her family doctor suggested she consider a colonscopy examination because of the fact that her mother died of colon cancer at age 54. Colon cancer is one of those cancers that can be hereditary. The average lifetime risk of colon cancer is about 1 chance in 17. If one of your relatives develops colon cancer, your risk is 3 to 6 times higher than that. Even though she had no symptoms such as rectal bleeding, or change in bowel habits, she agreed to have a colonoscopy examination. Despite her young age and no warning symptoms, she was surprised to learn that this large polyp was found about 18" up inside her colon.

 
  Snare Around Stalk
  Almost all colon cancers begin as a small non-cancerous polyp that slowly grows on the inner wall of the colon. It may take years for a polyp to develop into a serious colon cancer. The problem is that during this time there are often no warning symptoms. This polyp was quite large and had probably been present in this patient for a number of years. If the polyp had not been discovered, it would have soon developed into a fullblown colon cancer.

To prevent cancer from developing, Dr. Fusco performed a procedure called polypectomy. During the colonoscopy exam, a thin wire snare was placed over the polyp and around the stalk. Using computer control, electrical current cauterized the blood vessels to prevent bleeding and severed the stalk. In this photo you can see the wire snare being placed around the polyp stalk.

 
  Stump After Removal
  This photo shows the "stump" of the polyp stalk after polypectomy. Because of the cauterization, there is not even one drop of blood lost. The polyp has been removed and sent to the lab for biopsy analysis. This residual stump will slowly disappear over a period of months. As long as all of the polyp head is removed, the polyp will not grow back.

The biopsy report was an "adenomatous polyp with a focus of high grade dysplasia." This means that the polyp was close to cancer, but no actual cancer cells were present. Mrs. J. was glad that she took her doctor's advice and had a colonoscopy examination. She has encouraged her two younger sisters to have a similar examination by age 40. This case shows the value of seeing the doctor when you feel good. Colon checkups are recommended for all adults beginning at age 50. If there is a family history of colon cancer or polyps, start screening at age 40.

 

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