FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT IS A GASTROENTEROLOGIST?
A gastroenterologist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and management of diseases of the digestive system. This includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts and liver. Gastroenterologists see patients in the office and hospital and perform endoscopic procedures. A gastroenterologist has completed four years of medical school, three years of internal medicine residency and two to four years of gastroenterology fellowship.
WHAT IS AN UPPER ENDOSCOPY (EGD)?
An upper endoscopy (EGD or esophagogastroduodenoscopy) is a procedural exam that is used to detect abnormalities of the upper gastrointestinal tract. During the examination, a long tube with a camera at the tip is inserted into the mouth, esophagus, stomach and small intestine. The gastroenterologist is able to look for abnormalities and take tissue samples when required.
WHAT IS A COLONOSCOPY?
A colonoscopy is a procedural exam that is used to detect abnormalities of the lower gastrointestinal tract. During the examination, a long tube with a camera at the tip is inserted into the rectum and directed through the entire colon, sometimes entering the small bowel. When necessary, the gastroenterologist is able to remove abnormal tissue, polyps or take biopsies through the scope.
AM I AT RISK FOR COLORECTAL CANCER?
Colon cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer related deaths in the United States. Each year, about 148,000 new cases of colon cancer are diagnosed. This year, more than 53,000 people are expected to die of colorectal cancer. Patients with a personal or family history of colon polyps, colorectal carcinoma, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis) or other genetic cancer syndromes are at higher risk.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF COLON CANCER?
Most colon cancers have no symptoms at all, this is why screening is so important. However, certain symptoms should prompt you to see your doctor for a colonoscopy. These symptoms include but are not limited to new onset abdominal pain, blood in or on the stool, a change in stool caliber or shape, a change in typical bowel habits, constipation, diarrhea or unintentional weight loss. The presence of these symptoms does not always mean there is a cancer, but they do warrant further investigation.
IS COLON CANCER PREVENTABLE?
Yes. Screening examinations such as colonoscopy are used to detect colon polyps. Colon polyps are precancerous growths that can grow into cancer over time. During a colonoscopy, a gastroenterologist detects and removes colon polyps, thereby preventing colon cancer. The development of 75-90% of colon cancers can be prevented by early detection and removal of polyps.
If you have further questions regarding one or more of these topics, please feel free to give the office a call to schedule an appointment.