Colon polyp and colon cancer


Colon cancer is a cancer of the large intestine and is one of the most common cancer in Singapore as well as around the world. It usually starts as a small lump on the internal lining of the large intestine (also known as the colon). This small lump is known as a colon polyp initially and is non-cancerous (benign) at this stage. Patients usually do not have symptoms from their polyps. Some colon polyps are generally harmless but there are certain types of colon polyp (for eg. tubular adenoma, villous adenoma, serrated adenoma) that can grow larger and develop into colon cancer over time. 

Colon cancer may be prevented through regular screening with colonoscopy or stool test (fecal occult blood test). This is because screening test can detect colon polyp even when patients do not have any symptom such as passing out visible blood or tummy pain. Removal of colon polyp via colonoscopy may then prevent progression of the polyp into colon cancer.

As such, most guidelines recommend people be screened for colon polyp and colon cancer with either colonoscopy or stool test from the age of 50 years old onwards. For people with increased risk, such as those with a family history of colon cancer, screening may be started at age of 40 years old or even earlier depending on the age of the family member at the diagnosis of colon cancer. 

As every patient is unique with different risk profile and preference, the timing and choice of the screening test has to be carefully individualised and this is best done after a detailed discussion with the doctor performing the screening test. 

Please click here if you wish to understand more about colonoscopy. 

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Small colon polyp

Large colon polyp