You know what a mammogram looks for and what a diabetes screening can tell you. But what about a colonoscopy? Here, we explain what a polyp is, who’s at risk and how you can prevent them.
Polyps are abnormal growths on the lining of the colon, says Daniel S. Anderson, MD, a spokesman for the Colon Cancer Alliance. While the majority of polyps are benign, some can turn into cancer.
Most polyps don’t cause symptoms, which is why getting a colonoscopy is so important. If small polyps are found, the doctor will remove them. For large growths, or anything else suspicious, a biopsy will be done to test for cancer.
Ninety percent of polyps appear after age 50, Anderson says. That’s why colonoscopy screenings are recommended starting at that time. You’re also at increased risk for polyps if you smoke, don’t exercise regularly, eat a high-fat or low-fiber diet, or are overweight.
To lower your polyp odds, eat a healthy diet packed with fruits, vegetables and calcium-rich foods, such as yogurt. Exercise often and maintain a healthy weight.