1. Colorectal Cancer Screening
Over the last few years, we have instituted an aggressive course of colorectal cancer screening for anyone over the age of 50 and for African Americans over the age of 45. This entails a full colonoscopy to look for any abnormal colonic lesions or polyps (growths on the lining of the colon) and if present, remove them. If a patient has a family history of colon cancer in an immediate family member, that puts them at increased risk for colon cancer. It is recommended that those individuals undergo a screening colonoscopy 10 years before the age of diagnosis of their family members’ cancer. Future screening intervals will be determined by your gastroenterologist based on screening colonoscopy findings.
2. Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty in swallowing. It is usually a sign of a problem with your throat or esophagus, the tube that moves food and liquids from the back of your mouth to your stomach. There are many different problems that can prevent the throat or esophagus from working properly. Some of these are minor, and others are more serious. Any of these conditions can be easily evaluated by a gastroenterologist.
3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a very common disease process, which is associated with abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating and fullness. IBS presents with frequent episodes of diarrhea and/or constipation. There may be serious underlying causes of alterations in bowel function that need further evaluation. This is sometimes accomplished with a colonoscopy. IBS is a disease that can frequently be controlled with medication for almost complete, long-term relief of symptoms.
4. Diarrhea can be an ongoing and/or a very severe problem. When diarrhea is persistent, it merits further investigation. Diarrhea can be secondary to irritable bowel syndrome, but it can also be due to a bacterial infection or due to chronic inflammatory disease of the colon, such a Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. These conditions merit aggressive treatment. Uncontrolled diarrhea can be associated with weight loss, abdominal pain, and/or bleeding and needs to be thoroughly investigated.
5. Gastrointestinal Bleeding can come from one or more areas of the GI tract (esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine or colon, rectum and anus). In an adult, blood loss is often from the GI tract. The most common causes are due to an ulcer in the stomach, hemorrhoids, polyps, cancers, or diverticular disease. It is important to not make the mistake of assuming that a small amount of blood seen with a bowel movement or on the tissue is due to hemorrhoids. It is possible that a tumor may be located above the hemorrhoids and further investigation may be lifesaving.
6. GERD, or Gastroesophageal reflux disease, is associated with indigestion and heartburn but can be associated with atypical symptoms, such as choking and/or a cough. The end result of long-
term, untreated reflux can be esophageal cancer and/or narrowing of the esophagus.
7. Miscellaneous: if you experience any of the following signs and symptoms, a trip to the gastroenterologist’s office may be warranted: unexplained weight loss, persistent nausea & vomiting, abdominal pain or a feeling of abdominal fullness, excessive belching or burping, chronic constipation, or jaundice which is the yellowing of the skin or sclera (white of the eye).
Talk with your primary care provider about any problems you are having, but a referral to a gastroenterologist may be needed to get you back to feeling your best.
DIGESTIVE HEALTH ASSOCIATES, PA
BHEEMA SINGU, M.D.
Board Certified Gastroenterologogist
7558 SW 61ST AVE., UNIT 1, OCALA FL 34476