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Prime Healthcare Gastroenterology Group

Colon Polyps

Colon polyps are a common condition that affect up to 30 percent of older adults in the US. This condition is characterized by a small cluster of cells that form on the lining of the colon, also known as the large intestine. Most polyps are not cancerous and are simply a result of abnormal cell growth, but some can gradually turn into colon cancer, so regular screening and removal of all polyps is important.

Small polyps do not usually cause symptoms, but larger ones may cause rectal bleeding, bloody stools, constipation, diarrhea or pain. Polyps can form anywhere within the large intestine and are can vary in size and appearance depending on the type. The three main types of colon polyps are:

  • Adenomatous - most common and account for 75% of all colon polyps. If they are larger than about 5 millimeters, there is an increased risk of becoming cancerous
  • Hyperplastic - usually smaller than 5 millimeters and rarely cancerous
  • Inflammatory - may occur as a result of ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease and are usually benign

Certain factors may put you at a higher risk for developing colon polyps. Some of these factors include being over the age of 50, being male, a family history of polyps, smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity. Regular colon screenings are recommended for people over the age of 50. If any abnormalities are found or you are experiencing signs of colon polyps, your doctor may perform a series of diagnostic tests such as a digital rectal exam, barium enema, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.

If a colon polyp is discovered, it will likely be removed in order to prevent the chance of cancer. Most polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, while others may be burned with an electrical current or surgically removed.  Surgical removal can often be performed laparoscopically to minimize scarring and recovery time.

You can help reduce your risk of developing colon polyps and cancer by having regular screenings and maintaining an active and healthy life. Talk to your doctor about different steps you can take.

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease that involves inflammation and sores in the lining of the rectum and colon.  These sores, known as ulcers, can flare up and cause painful symptoms and can eventually lead to colon cancer.  Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease and is similar to Crohn's disease.

Ulcerative colitis most frequently begins between the ages of 15 and 30, although many people over the age of 50 also develop the disease. The cause of ulcerative colitis is not known, but may be associated with immune system abnormalities.  While stress and other environmental factors are not causes, they may trigger symptoms when the condition exists.

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis occur in flare-ups that can be sudden and severe or begin gradually with mild symptoms.  Although each person experiences the disease differently, common symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Joint pains
  • Anemia

Treatment for ulcerative colitis depends on the severity of the disease, but can include drug therapy to induce and maintain remission, hospitalization to treat severe symptoms or surgery to remove the colon and rectum. Many people with ulcerative colitis eventually need their colons removed because of excessive bleeding and a high risk of cancer.

People with ulcerative colitis may experience periods of remission that last months or even years, but symptoms will usually return unless surgery is performed. Your doctor can help you decide which treatment option is best for you.


Ulcers are sores or lesions found on the skin or within the mucous membranes of the body. Most ulcers occur in the gastrointestinal area and are known as peptic ulcers. These ulcers affect almost 5 million people each year. Peptic ulcers are found either in the stomach, known as gastric ulcers, or in the duodenum (part of the intestines), known as duodenal ulcers.  Duodenal ulcers are the most common.

About 80% of ulcers are caused by a bacteria infection known as Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). However, it is unknown how H. pylori enters the body. Life factors such as smoking, caffeine, alcohol, stress and extreme use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) can increase the risk of an ulcer. 

The most common symptom of an ulcer is a gnawing or burning pain sensation in the abdomen. Other symptoms may include:

  • Back pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Weakness

People suffering from these symptoms should see their doctor right away to determine if they are caused by an ulcer. Your doctor will perform a medical examination and then a series of tests to diagnose an ulcer. These tests include X-rays of the gastrointestinal series, an endoscopy, a series of H. pylori tests and a biopsy.

After an ulcer is diagnosed, it can usually be treated quickly and effectively. Treatment for an ulcer caused by an H. pylori infection usually includes antibiotic medication, acid suppressors and stomach protectors. Life changes can also help treat and prevent ulcers. Unresponsive ulcers can be the result of serious complications such as stomach cancer.

Upper GI Endoscopy

An upper endoscopy is a diagnostic test used to examine the upper digestive system - the esophagus, stomach, and first part of the small intestine, known as the duodenum. The procedure is done by inserting a thin tube with a light and camera at the end through the mouth and into the esophagus. The images from the camera are viewed on a display screen during the procedure.

Why is an upper endoscopy performed?

An upper endoscopy is used to determine the cause of digestive system symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, heartburn, bleeding and swallowing disorders. It is frequently used to diagnose gastroesophageal reflux disease, as well as ulcers and tumors.

How can I prepare for an upper endoscopy?

In order to achieve accurate results, you must have an empty stomach before the procedure. You should not eat or drink anything for at least six hours before an upper endoscopy.  Tell your doctor about any conditions or medications you take and he or she will instruct you on how to prepare.

What can I expect during the procedure?

Before the procedure, a local anesthetic will be applied to the back of the throat to relieve pain in the area. An IV with sedation medication may also be used to relax the patient. A mouthpiece is also inserted to keep the mouth open during the procedure. The patient will lie on his or her left side and the doctor will insert the endoscope into the mouth and all the way down to the stomach. A biopsy may be taken during the procedure to further examine a certain area. The procedure usually takes 15-30 minutes.

What happens after the procedure?

After the procedure, the patient will be kept under observation for about 30 minutes while the medication wears off. Temporary soreness of the throat may occur but is usually relieved quickly. Most doctors require that patients are driven home because of the use of sedation. Complications from an upper endoscopy are rare, but if you experience severe abdominal pain, cough, fever, chills or nausea and vomiting, call your doctor immediately.

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