What is Gastroenterology?
A gastroenterologist is a doctor that specializes in the normal function and diseases of the digestive tract, which includes the stomach, intestines, spleen, pancreas, and liver. As a specialty, gastroenterology is the study of how food moves through the body, how nutrients are absorbed by the body, and how waste is removed by the body. A few of the conditions that a gastroenterologist might treat are:
ulcerative colitis (a condition where inflammation and sores affect the lower intestine)
gallbladder disease (where bile stored in the gallbladder thickens and causes inflammation or gallstones)
gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD (stomach acid flows back into the throat and causes a burning sensation and tissue damage)
One unique trait that really sets gastroenterologists apart is their training and skill with endoscopy, a procedure where tiny flexible tubes are inserted into the body. These tubes are equipped with lights and cameras to provide the practitioner with a close, inside look at what is going on inside the patient’s body. Tools can even be inserted through the tubes to perform certain procedures, such as removing polyps or cancers, stretching open passageways that have narrowed, or applying lasers to stop bleeding.
Gastroenterologists do not perform surgery, but they do perform endoscopic procedures, as well as biopsies to determine if cancer is affecting the digestive tract. Although other physicians can use endoscopes, gastroenterologists devote a significant portion of their medical training and practice to endoscopy. They learn how and when to use endoscopy, the safest and most efficient methods to use, and how to interpret what they see through the endoscope.
What is Colon & Rectal Surgery?
Colon and rectal surgery is the medical specialty that deals with diseases and disorders of the lower intestinal tract, colon, rectum, and anus. The specialty was previously known as proctology, and some physicians who specifically treat diseases of the rectum and anus may still call themselves proctologists; but in general that term is not currently used. While colon and rectal surgery is related to gastroenterology, only colon and rectal surgeons can provide surgical care.
Colon and rectal surgeons can offer routine screenings for common health conditions affecting the colon and rectum. They have also undergone advanced surgical training, and they are able to treat conditions affecting the lower intestinal tract with surgery when needed.
Some conditions that a colon and rectal surgeon might treat include:
Serious and chronic constipation
Anal fissures, or tears in the skin around the anus
Anal abscesses and fistulae
Colon and rectal cancer
Colon and rectal surgeons perform various procedures to keep patients healthy, such as colonoscopies and sigmoidoscopies. These tests use long, flexible tubes to examine the lining of the colon in case of pain or bleeding, or to look for signs of cancer or polyps. If a patient’s intestines are severely diseased and not working well, a colon and rectal surgeon may perform an ostomy, where the healthy part of the intestines are connected to a tube or pouch on the outside of the body. Colorectal surgeons may also remove hemorrhoids, perform laparoscopic surgery on a tumor, or even offer genetic counseling to patients with a family history of colorectal cancers.
Colon and rectal conditions can be some of the most uncomfortable problems to endure. Even if your intestinal problem is severe, colon and rectal surgeons can help you lead a long, healthy, and more enjoyable life.
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