Colon Polyp Removal and Biopsy
A polyp is a deformity of the gastrointestinal tract lining which protrudes into the interior or lumen and appears to be abnormal tissue. The term “polyp” is a general, descriptive term that is applied to both those with the potential to become malignant or cancerous and to those which do not.
Most cancers that develop in the digestive tract start as benign growths. In the large intestine, these typically develop as polyps. The purpose of identifying those individuals who may be forming colorectal adenomas is to both remove these benign, but potentially malignant lesions, and to develop a plan for future surveillance.
The most common interventions during endoscopy are biopsy and polypectomy.
What is a biopsy?
The endoscopy biopsy is the collection of a small sample of tissue from the lining (mucosa) of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine or large intestine. These samples are taken with small pincer-like forceps, thus making the endoscopic biopsy a non-painful procedure. Any area where there is suspicion of abnormality or disease may require an endoscopy with biopsy. These biopsies are submitted to a gastrointestinal pathologist for examination with a microscope, or are taken for microbiologic (bacterial, viral, fungal) testing. Biopsies are not taken only to look for cancer, but more common that the biopsies are taken for evaluation of inflammation or other benign (non-cancerous) abnormalities.
What is a polypectomy?
A polypectomy is the surgical removal of a polyp. The physician will identify and remove any polyps which are suspicious for adenoma (pre-cancerous growth).
Most of these polyps are tiny (smaller than 10 mm, a little less than ½ inch), and these can often be removed without the need for cautery. Large (>10 mm) polyps, the risk of bleeding usually requires cauterization. To remove and cauterize a polyp, the physician uses a wire snare (a wire loop that can be tightly closed on the polyp) and a specialized electric current is passed to heat and seal the blood vessels of the tissue.