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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a gastroenterologist?

A gastroenterologist, sometimes referred to as a GI doctor, is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of digestive tract disorders. Your digestive tract is a long, continuous tube that extends from the mouth to the anus. It includes your mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine.

How do I know if I need a gastroenterologist?

If you are 45 years or older and have a history of gastrointestinal cancer in your family, you should see a gastroenterologist. You should also see a gastroenterologist if you have trouble swallowing, experience frequent heartburn, stomach pain, diarrhea, have ongoing constipation or see blood in your stool.

Do gastroenterologists perform surgery?

No. Gastroenterologists perform procedures like colonoscopies, endoscopies, and x-rays of your digestive system. If you need surgery, your gastroenterologist will refer you to a surgeon who specializes in gastrointestinal surgery.

What is the difference between Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis?

Both are chronic conditions that cause intestinal inflammation. Crohn’s disease can affect any portion of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus and often spreads deep into the layers of the affected tissue. Ulcerative colitis affects the innermost lining of your large intestine (rectum and colon) and can also cause ulcers in your digestive tract.

I’ve heard preparing for a colonoscopy is awful. Is that true?

Prep for colonoscopies has come a long way. First off, instead of drinking one gallon (128oz) of prep the night before your colonoscopy, most doctors divide the prep solution into two 6oz drinks. Secondly, chilling, drinking through a straw or adding a powder mix like Crystal Light or Kool-Aid will boost the flavor. Just steer clear of anything red. If you’ve ever lived through a stomach bug or had a bout of food poisoning, you’ve got this - just stay near a restroom.

Is Cologaurd® just as effective at identifying colon cancer as a colonoscopy?

No. Colonoscopies remain the gold standard for detecting colon cancer, and the first-line recommended screening.

Do I need a colon cancer screening if I don’t have symptoms?

Yes. The early stages of colon cancer often do not have symptoms. If you see blood or changes in your bowel habits, cancer may be at an advanced stage. Early detection is key to survival.

Is a colonoscopy the only way to screen for colon cancer?

There are other options available for screening if you are at low risk, however, a colonoscopy detects more cancers, examines your entire colon and can diagnose and remove polyps in one visit. Colonoscopies remain the gold standard for detecting colon cancer.

Does insurance cover colorectal screenings?

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of colorectal screening. However, if the results of the screening show you need more tests or treatment, you may need to pay a deductible and co-pay, as you would for other medical care. Talk to your health insurance company to learn how your screening is covered.

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