Gastroenterologists are medical specialists with extensive training in preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases of the digestive system. Most gastroenterologists are board certified internists who have completed up to three years of additional training to obtain board certification in gastroenterology. They specialize in disorders of the esophagus, stomach, intestines, liver, gall bladder and pancreas. To locate a gastroenterologist near you, visit the AGA homepage at: www.gastro.org
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Cancer of the colon is probably the most treatable and survivable of all cancers - if it is detected early through proper screenings. Colorectal cancer develops from adenomatous (non-cancerous) polyps, which are grape-like growths on the inside wall of the colon or rectum. Polyps grow slowly over three to 10 years, and some may become cancerous, while others may not. It is important to get screened to find out if you have polyps, and to have them removed if you do. Removal of polyps has been shown to prevent colorectal cancer. For people who are at average risk and age 50 and older, screening is essential. Talk to your physician about which of the following screening tests would be best for you.
-- Fecal occult blood test (FOBT): An FOBT tests stool for the presence of blood that is invisible to the eye. FOBT is recommended annually for people at average risk, beginning at age 50.
-- Sigmoidoscopy: A physician uses a long, flexible, lighted tube to check the rectum and the lower part of the colon for polyps and cancer. If a polyp is found, it can be sampled through the sigmoidoscope and sent to a lab to be tested. A sigmoidoscopy, which takes about 10 minutes, is recommended every five years beginning at age 50 for people at average risk.
-- Colonoscopy: An endoscopist inserts a long, flexible, lighted tube - called the colonoscope - through the anus to view the entire colon and rectum for polyps or cancer. The patient is required to drink a bowel cleansing preparation before the procedure. The colonoscope has a computer chip at the end, which can project images on a TV screen. If a polyp is found, it can be removed by a wire loop that is passed through the colonoscope and sent to a laboratory to be tested to determine if it is cancerous. A colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years beginning at age 50 for people at average risk.
-- Barium enema: This test is an x-ray examination of the entire colon and rectum. Barium enema may be used as a substitute for colonoscopy every five to 10 years. This method can, however, miss small polyps and does not permit removal of any polyps that may be discovered, so anyone undergoing barium enema may need a subsequent colonoscopy.
Related Web Sites
GERD Information Resource Center
All About GERD - Visit DrKoop.com
Find out what causes GERD and which drugs are used for treating GERD at WebMD.com
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (Hiatal Hernia and Heartburn) at National Institute of Health