Good Health: Certain Polyps Raise Colon Cancer Risk
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Please help. I have had two colonoscopies with 10 polyps found — half and half, both kinds. I noticed on my medical bill that I am at high risk. I was told that some new medicine might be available soon. I’m very scared. What could help me? — R.H.
ANSWER: A polyp is a growth of cells projecting from the lining of a structure. In this case, the structure is the colon. Close to 90 percent of polyps do not become cancers. Fifty percent of the population older than 60 has at least one polyp.
Ten percent of polyps are adenomatous polyps, ones with a potential of becoming cancer. I take it that some of your polyps were of this variety, and that’s why you are at “high risk.” Having those polyps removed eliminates the present cancer risk. Adenomatous polyp size is one factor involved in judging these polyps’ threat. Those larger than 2 cm (0.8 inches) have a 40 percent chance of transforming into cancer. The microscopic appearance of these polyps’ cells is given the designation of high-grade or low-grade. High-grade cells also increase the risk of cancer.
Actually, you are sitting pretty. You’ve had all your polyps removed. The fact that some of yours put you into the category of high risk only means that the doctor will work out for you a schedule for future colonoscopies. Those scope exams will disclose if any new polyps have formed. You are less likely to develop colon cancer than are people who have never had such an exam. I don’t know about the medicine you speak of.
Cutting back on red and processed meats (hot dogs and other luncheon meats), losing weight, decreasing the fat in your diet, cutting back on alcohol consumption, increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables you eat and increasing dietary fiber are things that diminish the likelihood of colon cancer. I have to be candid. Some authorities say these changes are not as protective as they’re made out to be. They are, however, conducive to good general health.
The booklet on colon cancer explains this common ailment in greater detail. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 505W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have had genital herpes for many years. I take a lysine pill every day, which can be bought over the counter at all drugstores. I get an outbreak maybe once or twice a year.
Doctors don’t know this, I guess, and they prescribe medicine rather than use home remedies. — R.Z.
ANSWER: Lysine treatment for herpes infections, including cold sores, is widely known. The fly in the ointment is that, for most, it doesn’t work successfully as it has for you. There is some scientific basis for lysine. It’s an amino acid, one of the building blocks for proteins. Lysine blocks the action of arginine, another amino acid, necessary for herpes viruses to replicate. That’s the theoretical reason for using lysine.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.
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