Dysplasia describes any abnormal and unnatural growth of cells. This often presents itself as a polyp or tumor. When present in the colon, dysplasia can be indicative of colon cancer. Colon dysplasia is easily diagnosed by a colonoscopy, at which point your physician will choose a course of treatment for the growth.
Upon discovering a colonic polyp, your colorectal physician will perform a polyepectomy. This simple procedure can be done at the same time as the colonoscopy. The physician uses a biopsy forceps to snip off a small polyp, then removing the polyp from the colon to test it for cancerous cells. If the polyp is exceptionally large, the physician may use a hot electric knife called a bovie to cauterize the growth. Complications, though rare, include accidental tearing of the colon wall and internal bleeding.
Discovery of a single colonic polyp indicates an increased risk for developing more dysplasia. While a polypectomy eliminates a single lesion, other dormant polyps may exist. Your physician may recommend that you increase your rate of colonoscopies to ensure that all colon dysplasia is identified and treated.
Some research suggests that aspirin may decrease the risk of developing additional colonic polyps. This preventative treatment may be suitable for patients with increased risk for colon cancer and decreased risk of intestinal bleeding. Talk to your doctor to see if an aspirin regimen is right for you. A proper diet can also help prevent development of colon dysplasia. Eat a diet rich in calcium, finding foods such as milk, broccoli, salmon and tofu. Avoid high-fat foods and replace them with fruits and vegetables. In general, maintaining a healthy body weight can prevent polyp formation.
Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP)
Some people have a genetic disorder, FAP, that causes colon dysplasia to develop rapidly beginning at adolescence. This rare disorder leads to thousands of colon polyps at the time of colonoscopy and requires extensive treatment. Complete removal of the colon must be performed to reduce the risk of colon cancer. In this procedure, a colectomy, the surgeon removes the entire colon leaving approximately 5 inches of the rectum (the end of the large intestines). The physician then surgically connects the small intestine to the remaining portion of the rectum. This procedure restores full excretory function and significantly decreases the risk of colon cancer.
These treatments for colon dysplasia do not completely eliminate the risk of colon cancer. It’s possible that the cancer had already metastasized, spreading from the polyp to other organs before the surgery. Talk to your doctor about cancer screenings to ensure that you are cancer-free.