A tubular adenoma polyp is a small tumor that grows along the wall of the large intestine. This type of polyp contains cancerous cells. In many instances, the cancer cells are contained to the polyp. So, having a tubular adenoma polyp does not mean that a patient has colon cancer. It does, however, mean that he or she is at significantly higher risk of the disease.
Colon polyps are actually quite common, especially in patients over 60. In some instances, these growths are completely benign. Inflammatory polyps are common in individuals with certain medical conditions that irritate the colon wall. While these growths are often biopsied to rule out cancer, they are seldom removed.
The discovery of a tubular adenoma polyp is more worrisome. They are generally easily identified as the large majority show up as pedunculated growths. In short, they resemble trees with a larger top sitting on a supporting trunk. Often, these tumors can be removed easily during a colonoscopy by simply cutting them at the stem. The polyp is then checked for cancerous cells.
If cancer cells are found in the bulk of the adenoma but have not reached the stem, the patient is said to have stage zero cancer or carcinoma in situ. Often, a more intensive colonoscopy will be performed to check for additional polyps. If none are present, or if only additional stage zero polyps are found, further treatment is often unnecessary. Regular colonoscopies are generally advised as a preventative measure.
In stage one and stage two colon cancer, the cells have spread from the tubular adenoma polyp but are still localized to the colon. In stage one, the cancer has spread to the surface of the colon. In stage two, it has begun to erode the colon wall. In both cases, the cancer is generally treated by removing the affected section of the colon. The majority of patients treated for these stages of colon cancer make a complete recovery.
Colon cancer in stages three and four is much more serious. The cancer cells originating in the tubular adenoma polyp have spread to the areas surrounding the colon. In stage three, the lymph nodes outside of the colon wall are effected. In stage four, the cancer has spread to the liver or beyond. These cancers are treated much more aggressively, usually with chemotherapy, but generally, the prognosis is poor.
Tubular adenoma polyps are largely considered to be unpreventable, although some studies point to reduced risks in those with high-fiber diets. Additional calcium and vitamin C and E supplements are also often suggested for those with family histories of colon cancer. Regular colonoscopies are strongly recommended also.