Anyone, Even Dr. Oz, Can Get a Colon Polyp

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In case you thought that he was indestructible, Dr. Mehmet Oz has recently opened up about his own colon cancer scare. At his first colonoscopy screening at age 50, doctors found a small pre-cancerous polyp and he is now sending a message. Americans, even those without a family history of colorectal cancer, should discuss with their doctor about the appropriate screenings for diseases such as cancer.

Most Colon Polyps Are Not Cancerous

Colon polyps are common in adults and most do not turn into cancer. However a polyp is an abnormal growth of cells that does need to be removed before it becomes large and causes complications.

A colon polyp is a small clump of cells that forms on the lining of the colon. Most do not cause symptoms, which is why experts recommend regular screenings. The polyp removed from Dr. Oz was a small adenomatous (benign) tumor that had the potential to become malignant over about 10 to 15 years.

According to Dr. Jonathan LaPook, who writes a health column for CBS News and is also Dr. Oz’s physician, patients who smoke, eat diets high in red and processed meats, drink too much alcohol, do not exercise, and are obese are at a increased risk for colorectal cancer. Dr. Oz’s healthy lifestyle likely has protected him from a bigger polyp or early cancer.

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Other factors that may increase the risk of colorectal cancer include age, personal history of polyps or cancer, history of inflammatory bowel disease, racial and ethnic background (African Americans have the highest colorectal cancer incidence and mortality in the US), and family history.

Read: 12 Myths About Colon Cancer

Only about 63% of Americans between the ages of 50 and 75 get screened for colorectal cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that screening Americans, beginning at age 50, get screened using technologies such as colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy using a CT scan, barium enema, flexible sigmoidoscopy, or a stool test to check for blood and other markers.

Read: Omega 3 May Reduce Inherited Pre-Cancerous Bowel Tumors

A colonoscopy is considered the “gold standard” for screening. The test takes about 30 minutes and is conducted using a thin, flexible, lighted tube that has a tiny video camera. The colonoscope is gently eased inside the colon to view the intestinal wall. Patients are usually asleep for the procedure, but privacy is a top concern.

Most people feel fine after a colonoscopy (it is not painful), but need to stay out of work for a day because of the medications used during the procedure that make you less alert. A patient may also feel mild discomfort due to intestinal gas.

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