What is a cecal polyp?

A cecal polyp is a growth in the cecum, the sac at the top of the large intestine. These growths are often benign in nature, but have the potential to transform and become malignant, making them a potential cause for concern. Some are not diagnosed until a patient dies of an unrelated cause and receives an autopsy, while others may be identified during screening for intestinal cancers and other medical tests or procedures in which the interior of the cecum becomes visible. A doctor usually recommends removing the growth for safety.

These tissue masses may be firmly attached to the wall of the cecum, in which case they are characterized as sessile, or they may be peduncular, meaning attached to a protruding stalk. The reasons for the formation of cecal polyps are not clear; Some patients may have a genetic predisposition, while others do not, and it does not appear to be directly related to eating habits. Many patients do not experience symptoms.

Sometimes cecal polyps bleed and cause changes in the stool. If they become malignant, the cancer cells will begin to eat into the intestinal wall, causing diarrhea, pain, and further changes in stool color. A doctor may perform an endoscopy with a camera on a long wire to inspect the cecum and sample any abnormalities found there. For convenience, the doctor may remove the entirety of a cecal polyp.

Removing the entire growth will not harm the patient and may have benefits. If it is malignant, the doctor does not need to schedule a second procedure to remove the rest of the growth. In the case of benign growths, removing the entire growth means that it won't have a chance to turn into a malignant tumor. A pathologist can examine the cecal polyp to learn more about it and determine if any further treatment is needed.

These growths are very common and are not necessarily a cause for immediate concern. If a doctor detects a cecal polyp at endoscopy, the patient should not panic. The doctor will remove the growth in its entirety, drastically reducing the risks, and tests should quickly determine if the doctor needs to take further action.

Patients with a family history of bowel cancers or with risk factors for cancer, such as a history of inflammatory bowel disease, should consider additional screening for cancers. A doctor can determine the most appropriate tests and their frequency, striking a balance between exposing the patient to risk through excessive testing and not testing early enough to detect cancers when they are still highly treatable.

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