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"What percentage of biopsied colposcopies are cancerous?"


What percentage of colon polyps are cancerous? I just had a colonoscopy, and the doctor performed a biopsy on a polyp he found. Now I'm waiting for the results and I'm pretty anxious. I know polyps are pretty common, but what are the numbers on cancer?


First, good for you for having had a colonoscopy (a colposcopy is something different). As you know, the current recommendation is for all people to have a colonoscopy at their 50th birthday, or sooner than the age at which any relatives were diagnosed with cancerous polyps. Now that you have had your polyp removed and you are waiting for the pathology to come back, there are a few details that we can flesh out so that we understand this question correctly.

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Any polyp in your colon will become cancerous, and is best understood in that light. That is why they are removed in almost all cases, and that is why you will need to repeat your colonoscopy in the future (as directed by your surgeon or gastroenterologist). For that reason, a more appropriate question to ask would be whether or not the polyp in your case has any concerning features that might require further treatment (such as invasion into the surrounding mucosa, or lining of the GI tract). To answer that question, we would need to know whether or not you have been having any bleeding from your rectum or other symptoms, as well as whether or not you have any other history of these polyps before or any other history of cancer, and it would be very difficult to do without knowing what your doctor saw while doing the scope (was the lesion on a little pedicle, or was it directly in the lining of the colon, for example). Polyps are very common, and most often can be managed with routine colonoscopies and removal as needed without disrupting your life to a great extent. Unfortunately, only your doctor will know the details specific to your case, and he or she should be able to give you some preparation for what the final pathology will relate.

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