Polyps in New Jersey
Polyps are common. The Digestive Health & Nutrition Center has two convenient locations in Lawrenceville and Princeton, New Jersey where you can receive the exceptional care you deserve. Angela Merlo, MD is an expert Gastroenterologist with particular expertise in the detection and treatment of polyps.
What are Colon Polyps?
Colon polyps are growths that form in the lining of the colon. Polyps can grow inside other digestive organs but the colon is the most common site of polyp formation. Colon polyps occur in about one-third of all people and are worrisome because of the potential for cancer to develop inside polyps. There are different types of polyps. Adenomas carry the highest risk for development of cancer. Two-thirds of all colon polyps are adenomas. Fortunately, screening programs are available for early detection so that polyps can be safely removed before malignancy develops.
What Causes Polyps?
Experts have identified specific inherited genes that lead to polyp formation. Gene mutations can also occur that lead to the development of polyps in individuals with no inherited risk. Polyps are not cancer. But, over time and under the right conditions, cancer develops inside of some polyps. The rate of development of cancer varies but experts thinks it takes a few years for cancer to develop inside a polyp.
Am I at Risk?
Everyone is at risk. You are at higher than average risk if you have any or all of the following:
- A history of colon polyps
- A family history of colon polyps or colon cancer
- Ulcerative Colitis for over ten years
- Ovarian or endometrial cancer
What are Symptoms of Polyps?
Most polyps cause no symptoms. Symptoms may occur as the polyp grows. What people experience depends on the polyp’s location. For example, if a polyp bleeds, the color of blood in stool will be red if the polyp is located close to the rectum but purple or black or invisible when the polyp is far away from the rectum. Some symptoms of polyps are:
- Blood in stool, either red or purple or black in color
- Change in stool consistency or frequency
- Difficulty in evacuation
- Pain in the abdomen
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, ask Dr. Merlo what is the best approach to resolve your problem. Remember, early detection is the best chance removing polyps before colon cancer develops. So, even without symptoms, follow the recommended guidelines for colon and colorectal cancer screening.
What is Colon Cancer Screening?
Screening means searching for disease before symptoms develop. Colonoscopy for colorectal cancer screening is the same procedure as colonoscopy but is performed in the absence of symptoms. The purpose is to detect and remove polyps that are present and not causing symptoms but have the potential to transform into cancer. Insurance plans usually cover 100% of the cost of screening colonoscopy with no deductible or copays. Dr. Merlo recommends screening colonoscopy for all people over 50-years. That is the age agreed upon by all national medical societies to begin screening for colorectal cancer in average risk individuals. The interval for follow-up colonoscopy examinations depends on the individual situation and whether polyps are detected during the initial examination. Individuals at higher risk are advised to begin screening at an earlier age (usually 40-years) and require more frequent examinations for adequate protection against developing colorectal cancer.
There is considerable evidence that patients have much reduced chance of developing colon cancer in the years following their initial screening when the colonoscopy is more thorough and takes longer time. Dr. Merlo has unsurpassed technical expertise and dedication to provide patients with the highest quality care available.
How are Colon Polyps Treated?
Colonoscopy is the best method for detection of polyps. Colonoscopy is superior to “virtual colonoscopy” scans in the accuracy to detect small polyps and the ability for removal during the same test. Radiologic or “virtual” scans can only suggest the presence of polyps, cannot identify small polyps and require a follow-up colonoscopy with another bowel preparation for confirmation and removal. Dr. Merlo has particular expertise in performing colonoscopy, detecting polyps and removing polyps. If Dr. Merlo visualizes a polyp during colonoscopy, she inserts specialized instruments through the colonoscope that allow her to safely resect and remove the polyp and cauterize the area to allow proper healing. Dr. Merlo may advise you to speak to relatives about your results so they may know they are at higher risk and need colonoscopy for screening. Dr. Merlo may also recommend daily use of aspirin that experts think decreases the occurrence of polyps.
If you are experiencing symptoms or are of age and need a colonoscopy, contact the Digestive Health & Nutrition Center in Lawrenceville or Princeton, New Jersey for an appointment with Dr. Merlo.