Cancervivor, what a great question! I am an oncology nurse so let me attempt an answer. Precancerous cells have the potential of becoming cancer. For instance, certain polyps are considered precancerous. When we get coloniscopies, the GI docs remove adenomatous polyps because they are considered precancerous whereas hyperplastic polyps are considered benign. Some cancers give off precancerous lesions like colorectal or cervical. Some cancers do not like ovarian or pancreatic so it makes these cancers harder to detect. Whenever you are screened for any type of cancer like colon, prostate, cervical, or gastric to name a few, they are looking for those cells that alert them of the possibility. I applaud you for the question, you empower yourself when you question the behavior or characteristic of the enemy you fight. Best of luck, Carm.
Hodgkin Disease Questions
What are pre-cancerous cells?
Asked by cancervivor on Wednesday, December 19, 2012
What are pre-cancerous cells?
I have polyps in my colon and was told they are pre-cancerous
3 Answers from the Community
PRE-Cancerous cells are cells that show a likelyhood to develop into cancer in the future if left alone. Colon cancer starts out as pylops in the colon with precancerous cells, which can easily be removed during a routuine colonoscopy. This is why colon cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable cancers. I am told that the probability of developing colon cancer is about equal to your age, in the population as a whole, and much higer if there is a family history of colon cancer. This is wht it is recommended that people without a family history of colon cancer get regular colonoscopies starting at 50 and those with a family history of colon cancer get them starting 10 years younger than the earliest diagnosis in the family.
I assume that you have had a colonoscopy and there is where the polyps were found. The Dr will use a tool to remove the polyps (all of them) and have them biopsied to see what is in them. So at this point you probably do not have any polyps in your colon. You have also probably been told that you will need another colonopsopy in three to five years, depending on the size of the polyps and the type of cells. People with no polyps get a follow-up colonoscopy in 10 years. The follow-up colonoscopy is scheduled so that if the polyps return that they can find them and remove them before they become cancerous.
Congratulations on having the polyps discovered before you got colon cancer, take it from me you do not want it!!
I've always thought the term precancerous to be very misleading. It implies that somehow those cells will become cancerous without intervention, which is not always the case. A more accurate term is dysplasia, which is the abnormal growth of cells most typically an increase of immature cells, with a corresponding decrease in the number and location of mature cells. The risk of low grade dysplasia transforming into high grade dysplasia, and eventually cancer, is low. High grade dysplasia represents a more advanced progression towards malignant transformation.
So bottom line is dysplasia can lead to an eventual cancer but it often does not. So pre-cancerous is more accurately defined as an anomaly that may or may not become cancerous at some later time, or in other words, they are possibly-cancerous-somewhere-down the road cells.