Health is wealth, as the old saying goes. Simple, but true. You may believe you're already keeping yourself fit and healthy. But usually, even if you do not see or feel something wrong, there actually IS something wrong.
Such is the case of colon polyps. Typically, polyps are extra tissues that grow inside the body. And colon polyps particularly, grow inside the large intestines, which are a major part of the digestive system. The colon is where the body produces and stores stool.
Colon polyps, more often than not, cause no symptoms. In extreme cases however, people with colon polyps exhibit symptoms such as bleeding from the anus, blood in the stool and diarrhea or constipation which remains for more than a week.
Colon polyps vary in sizes and appearance. The small ones look like warts while the big ones resemble cherries on a branch. Majority of colon polyps, particularly the small ones, are benign and not dangerous. However, bear in mind that large polyps can become or are already cancerous, particularly those larger than 1 centimeters. There may be one or more polyps in the intestines. Thus, it is always advisable for doctors to test and remove all polyps.
People who are at greater risk for colon polyps are those over 50 years of age and those who have had polyps before. In fact, the risk of colon polyps developing into colon cancer increases as one grows older. Statistics show that about 20 per cent of adults may have one or more colon polyps.
In addition, genetics may play a factor as those belonging to families whose member have had polyps or cancer of the large intestine may have a greater chance of getting colon polyps.
Eating a lot of unhealthy fatty food, obesity, smoking, excess alcohol and lack of exercise are also reported to cause colon polyps. Studies indicate that smokers who consumer more than 20 cigarettes a day are at risk for developing polyps by 250 per cent more than non-smokers. Those who drink excessively are at risk for developing polyps by 87 per cent compared to those who do not drink.
There are four different tests used by doctors to check for polyps. The first one is barium enema wherein the doctor puts a liquid called barium into the large intestine through the anus. The barium makes the large intestines appear white in the x-ray while polyps appear dark and so spotting them is quite easy.
Another test is the digital rectal exam wherein the doctor, wearing gloves, would examine the rectum to check if it feels normal. This method only checks for polyps in the rectum.
Sigmoidoscopy, on the other hand, utilizes a sigmoidoscope- a thin flexible tube fitted with a light and a minute video camera. This is inserted into the rectum and is used to look up to the third of the large intestine.
Another similar method is colonoscopy. This method uses a sigmoidoscope and checks all of the large intestine. This method requires sedation.
The doctor then removes the polyp either through the sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy or operations through the abdomen.
Although medical treatment are available for colon polyps, prevention is still the most effective and efficient way.
To lower the risk of developing polyps, shift to healthy eating. This would mean lessening the intake of fatty food and increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables. Particularly, eat foods rich in calcium such as milk, broccoli and cheeses. Also, eat foods rich in folate such as kidney beans, spinach and chickpeas. Contrary to popular belief, it is not mainly the fiber in vegetables and fruits that fight colon polyps but the phytochemicals which act against cancer. Avoid smoking and alcohol, lose weight and exercise regularly.
And because colon polyps rarely exhibits symptoms, general check ups or screenings must be regularly done to detect their existence early.
At this point, more studies are under way to find out the effectiveness of aspirin, turmeric and other substances in decreasing the risks for colon polyps.
Again, health is wealth. Do not risk yourself in developing colon polyps. Eat healthily, exercise regularly and never fail to visit your doctor for general check ups and you are on your way to a polyp-free and healthy you.