They found polyps on my colon

Do I have cancer?


Dear doctor,

I just had my first colonoscopy. To be honest, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. But afterward, the doctor said they found some polyps. Nobody could tell me anything more specific. Does this mean I have cancer? How worried should I be? 



Dear Maria,

Congratulations on getting a colonoscopy. I wish more Americans were as smart as you about getting screened. More than 50,000 people die from colorectal cancer every year. Early detection could help keep many of those deaths from happening.

It sounds like your exam found a few polyps. That isn’t unusual and it doesn’t mean you have cancer. I’ll explain why.

First, let’s talk about what polyps are. Polyps are small growths on the inner lining of your large intestine and rectum. They’re very common in people over age 50.

Polyps come in different types and sizes. Some are less than a quarter of an inch in size. Others grow to be several inches. They can be flat, or grow on a stalk like a mushroom. 


Get screened


Schedule your colon cancer screening. 

Find care in your state 


Some kinds of polyps can become cancers over time, but most don’t. The two most common types of polyps are: 

  • Hyperplastic polyps: This type doesn't become cancer. 
  • Adenomas: This type is more complicated. Almost all colon cancer probably started as an adenoma. But only a few adenomas turn into cancer. That means even if you have some, they'll probably never become cancer. We still like to take them out just in case. 

The only way to tell what kind of polyps you have is to remove them and send them to a lab. This takes a few days. That’s probably why no one could be more specific on the day of your exam. 


Once your labs come back, your doctor’s office will call to schedule your next exam. How soon you need to return will depend on what your doctor found during the exam. For example: the type of polyps you had, how many you had, and how large they were.

In the meantime, don’t worry, Maria. You’ve done a great thing for your health. 

In good health, 

Joshua Jacobs, MD, FAAFP
National Medical Director, Provider Intelligence
Clinical Performance, Optum Care 


Will Medicare cover a colon cancer screening?


Original Medicare covers these tests at 100% of the Medicare-approved amount when you get them from a provider who accepts Medicare

  • Fecal occult blood test
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • Colonoscopy

You pay nothing (no deductible or coinsurance).

Medicare Advantage plans must also cover them without applying deductibles, copays, or coinsurance when you: 

  • See a network provider, and 
  • Meet Medicare’s rules for the service


  • Medicare Interactive 
  • American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.