A sigmoid polyp is a mass of cells that grows in the sigmoid colon, which is the s-shaped section of the large intestine near the end of the digestive tract. A sigmoid polyp is a matter of some concern because it can – but doesn’t always – become malignant. Therefore, it is described as being pre-cancerous.
Even though polyps don’t always result in colon cancer, it’s best to remove them if they’re detected. This can be done during a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a surgical procedure in which a doctor examines the inside of the colon to make sure it’s healthy. He or she will use a device known as a colonoscope during this examination. A colonoscope is a long flexible tube with a tiny video camera attached to the front, which enables the surgeon to look for signs of cancer in the walls and lining of the colon.
There are several types of sigmoid polyps. They are sometimes small and flat. These are called sedentary polyps. Or they can look more like a mushroom with a stalk, in which case they’re known as pedunculated.
Some sigmoid polyps are tiny – as small as a pea. Other are huge and can become as large as a golf ball. Those that are smaller and mushroom-shaped become cancerous less often than those that are flat and large. Typically, the bigger the sigmoid polyp, the higher the chance that it will become malignant.
The major risk factors for sigmoid polyps include
- Aging – they appear much more often after age 50
- Tobacco use
- Eating a lot of low fiber, high fat foods
- Heredity – you’re more likely to have a sigmoid polyp if there are others in your family who have also had them
Small colon polyps don’t present symptoms. This is why it’s important to have colon cancer screenings as recommended by your doctor. It’s very important to have these screenings after age 50, but your doctor may recommend them sooner if you’re at higher risk.
Large colon polyps may present symptoms like
- Rectal bleeding or blood in stools
- Stools may become noticeably more narrow
- Bowel difficulties like diarrhea and constipation, or pain during bowl movements
Sigmoid polyps that are discovered early can generally be removed safely and completely. The first step is to find out if a mass is malignant or not. Your doctor can take a sample during a colonoscopy and have it analyzed.
There is no sure method of preventing sigmoid polyps from developing. You can certainly lower your risk, however, with lifestyle changes and regular screenings.
Getting some exercise and eating healthier food (especially high fiber types) definitely help. Be sure you get enough calcium because it helps protect you against cancer. Broccoli, kale and canned salmon are good calcium sources. Vitamin D also appears to help reduce your risk.
If you smoke, stop. If you consume a lot of alcohol, cut back.
Having a sigmoid polyp doesn’t need to frighten you. The most important thing is to find out that you have it before it becomes malignant, so it can be removed and you can remain colon cancer free.