Congratulations, your test is over!
After your colonoscopy and before you leave the testing location, your gastroenterologist will talk to you about what was observed during the screening.
If there were no polyps present, and barring any later symptoms, you will not have to have another routine colonosopy for five to ten years!
What if my doctor found one or more polyps during the colonoscopy?
Do not panic. A polyp doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. The number, type, size, and location of polyps will determine what additional treatment your doctor recommends. Some polyps can be completely removed during a colonoscopy. If you had a small to medium size polyp, your doctor may have removed it. The removal of precancerous polyps prevents the development of colon cancer.
I had a polyp removed. Does this mean I have cancer?
No. The first thing to remember is that there are several types of colon growths or polyps. The most common are:
- Hyperplastic and inflammatory polyps, which have virtually no chance of developing into cancer.
- Adenomatous polyps, which have the potential to become cancerous. Notice we said “potential.” Just because you have one doesn’t mean it is cancerous. As many as 2/3rds of polyps are adenomas.
During the colonoscopy, it’s hard to differentiate between the benign hyperplastic and the more worrisome adenomatous polyp. Polyps appear as lumps inside the colon. Some are flat and others hang down from a stalk. Each polyp is biopsied and tissue from the polyp is sent to a lab and tested for cancer. While it can be nerve wracking waiting for the lab results, remember that it takes as many as 10 years for a polyp to become cancerous.
What if my polyp was too large to remove during the colonoscopy?
Your gastroenterologist will remove as much of the polyp as possible and take biopsies in and around the growth area to test for cancer.
Depending on the biopsy results, and the size and location of the growth, your gastroenterologist may consult an oncologist (cancer doctor) and a surgeon to arrange for removal of the tumor.
How long will I have to wait to get the lab results?
The results should be back in 7 to 10 days and you’ll be notified by the office staff via phone or letter.
What happens once my lab results come back?
If the results come back negative for cancer, you’ll be advised whether a follow up office examination is needed and when. There is a 25-30% chance you’ll have additional adenomas within a three year period. You will also be advised that you should have another colonoscopy in about 3 years.
If the results come back positive for cancer, your gastroenterologist will have you come in for a follow up appointment and help you decide the best next steps.
Your Riverside gastroenterologist is one of a network of medically distinguished partner doctors across nearly every speciality including oncology (cancer). Your doctor will offer to immediately call one of his or her partner oncologists so that you can be seen and evaluated right away. You may also choose your own doctor.
How did I get a polyp?
No one knows why polyps develop but they are very common among men and women of all races who live in industrialized countries. 30% to 50% of middle aged and older people will have at least one polyp in their lives. Lifestyles may increase our chances of developing a polyp. The risk is greater if you:
- Eat a high fat diet
- Eat a lot of red meat
- Eat a low fiber diet
- Are obese
If I have a polyp, is my family at a greater risk for polyps?
Family and genetics can play a role in whether you are at risk of developing polyps. Colon cancer and polyps tend to run in families, so if you have a close relative (sibling, mother or father) who has had polyps or cancer, you should be diligent about getting a colonoscopy. If you have colon cancer or polyps, you should let close relatives know so that they can be tested. If you have more distant relatives such as aunts, uncles or grandparents who have had colon cancer or polyps, your risk is considered average.