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Should a Gastroenterologist Become Part of Your Medical Team?

January 30, 2022

Doctors from Atlantic Medical Group Gastroenterology at Summit answer top concerns.

Tummy troubles are common, but are they just a nuisance or a cause for concern? And what about the new colonoscopy guidelines announced this year; do they apply to you? Atlantic Medical Group Gastroenterology physicians at Summit explain that it’s not a matter of if you should see a GI specialist, but when.

What does a gastroenterologist treat?

We specialize in diagnosing and treating digestive health issues: abdominal pain, cancers, metabolic issues, functional issues like irritable bowel syndrome, and also inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. We also treat diseases of the liver, pancreas and gallbladder.

What are some signs of digestive trouble?

Any deviation from your norm should warrant an investigation if it lasts more than two to three weeks and does not improve on its own. Be aware of changes in bowel habits: diarrhea or constipation, or changes in color, frequency or texture. Heartburn or abdominal indigestion can present at any time in life, but you want to be aware of persistent or increasing symptoms. Weight loss that is rapid, progressive and unexplained by dieting or external factors also warrants an evaluation. And anytime a person is bleeding rectally or vomiting blood, those are gastrointestinal emergencies and are urgent alarms that you should be evaluated.

What’s the difference between IBD and IBS?

Although they present with similar symptoms, these two complex conditions have different consequences for one’s health. Our understanding of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is evolving, and we know it is a disorder of the gut nervous system and a disturbance of the gut-brain connection. Whereas IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) is a disorder of the immune system. It is this reason the treatment and the natural course of these illnesses are vastly different. Both require accurate and timely diagnosis. In particular, early identification and treatment of IBD is critical in prevention of significant complications, including need for surgery and cancer. Overlook and Morristown medical centers will be working together to develop an Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center of Excellence. Our goal is to identify these patients and develop a relationship with them over time to appropriately manage their care. IBD is a lifelong medical condition, and it requires us to be extremely proactive to slow disease progression. We have many physicians with interest in managing IBS.

What the latest on colonoscopy?

The rules have changed because people are getting colon cancers earlier in life. The American Cancer Society now recommends that adults at average risk for colorectal cancers have their first colonoscopy at 45 years old. Those who have a first-degree relative diagnosed with colon cancer before age 50 should speak to their doctor about assessing their risk even earlier.

Are there alternatives to colonoscopy?

There are at-home tests that look at DNA and blood cells in the stool. There is also “virtual colonoscopy.” But these imaging studies do not provide the same benefits, and they do expose the patient to radiation. Colonoscopy is the gold standard. It is prophylactic in terms of screening, and it is also therapeutic because we can remove polyps that may turn into cancer. You should discuss all of these options with your doctor. The important thing is, do not disregard your belly.

To schedule a colonoscopy, contact your primary care physician or Atlantic Medical Group Gastroenterology physicians at Summit.

Physicians from this practice who contributed to this article include: Sabina Braude, MD, board-certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology from American Board of Internal Medicine; Wendy Rabbenou, MD, board-certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology from American Board of Internal Medicine; and Neelesh Rastogi, MD, board-certified in internal medicine from American Board of Internal Medicine. Atlantic Medical Group Gastroenterology at Summit is located at 33 Overlook Road, Suite 201, Summit. They can be reached at 908-522-5040.