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Gastrointestinal Health Center

Gastrointestinal Health Screening

Diagnosing a gastrointestinal disorder (GI) is symptom based. The involved organs run between the mouth and the anus. The GI disorders range from simple heartburn to more a serious diagnosis of colorectal cancer or hepatitis.

There is a long and varied list of GI disorders, involving the upper and lower GI tracts, some of which are listed below:

  • Colorectal cancer
  • Diverticular disease: diverticulosis or diverticulitis
  • Ulcer
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome: Crohn's disease or colitis
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Gallstones
  • Pancreatitis
  • Hepatitis

The Diagnostician

GI conditions affect the organs within the system but have a cascading affect that involves care and treatment by many different physician specialists. Here are some of the many specialists and the conditions they treat:

  • Primary care physician: Most patients begin the diagnostic process with their primary care physician (PCP) who performs the initial assessment and testing.
  • Gastroenterologist: This board-certified physician specializes in diagnosing and treating GI disorders. This specialist does specialized diagnostic procedures, including colonoscopy and gastroscopy, which are currently called upper and lower endoscopy.
  • Oncologist: A physician who is a specialist in the treatment of cancer diagnoses by ordering chemotherapy regimes, radiation therapy and other cancer care.
  • Surgeon: Depending upon the cancer diagnosis, surgery is sometimes a treatment option. A skilled surgeon, often a specialist in the specific diseased area such as a colorectal surgeon, is a healthcare team member.

The Diagnostic Tests

Diagnosis of a GI condition begins with a physical examination by the PCP. Further testing is then ordered to attain a firm diagnosis and begin a treatment plan. Here are a few of the common diagnostic testing options:

  • Stool occult blood test: checking stool sample for presence of blood
  • Abdominal x-rays
  • Ultrasound studies
  • Colonoscopy and gastroscopy
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)
  • Liver biopsy
  • Barium swallow
  • Computed tomography (CT scan)
  • A variety of blood tests including complete blood count (CBC), liver function tests (LFT)

Treatment Options

Depending upon the screening test results, a treatment plan for medical care will be formulated. There is a plethora of medical and surgical interventions for the many GI disorders.

Medical treatments include, but are not limited to:

  • adding fiber to the diet
  • a course of antibiotic therapy
  • a special diet
  • medications like proton pump inhibitors (Prilosec, Prevacid) or H2 blockers (Tagamet, Zantac)
  • oral steroid therapy in some cases, depending upon the diagnosis
  • chemotherapy or radiation for a cancer diagnosis
  • quitting smoking and reducing alcohol intake

Surgical treatments can include:

  • An office procedure with local anesthesia like perianal abscess drainage to a major operation like a bowel resection

It is important to follow the advice of your healthcare provider to attain the best results in treating all GI disorders.

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