What is a Colorectal Surgeon?
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A colorectal surgeon is a physician who specializes in diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus, as well as the entire gastric tract. This type of surgeon works closely with urologists, who handle the urogenital tract in males and the urinary tract of women, gynecologists, who deal with specific female issues, and gastroenterologists, who deal with diseases of the gut.
The term 'proctologist' hasn't officially been used since 1961; these specialists now prefer to be called colorectal surgeons. The reason for the change in name is that proctology only refers to the treatment of the anus, rectum, and sigmoid colon, however, colorectal surgeons specialize not only in that area, but in the entire gastric tract. This may sound very similar to what gastroenterologists do, however there is one important distinction- gastroenterologists do not perform surgery, and colorectal surgeons do. What this means is that a colorectal surgeon can screen for colon cancer as well as treat the disease.
What does a Colorectal Surgeon do?
Typically, a colorectal surgeon is consulted when a patient needs surgery, or has a complex condition which requires attention. Basic problems like small hemorrhoids and mild constipation can be treated by a general physician. However, when it becomes evident that more investigation is needed, or a patient needs specialized surgery, a general physician will refer the patient to a colorectal surgeon.
The conditions that colorectal surgeons treat are quite varied. Some examples of conditions are fecal incontinence, severe constipation, cancers of the colon and rectum, fissures, fistulas, and hemorrhoids. They may also treat cases of rectal prolapse (this is when the rectum turns itself inside out).
Colorectal surgeons perform surgeries by using highly advanced equipment to make the surgery as noninvasive as possible. Some examples of tests or surgical procedures that a colorectal surgeon may perform are colonoscopies, colectomies or colon resections, a proctectomy or rectal removal, or a hemorrhoidectomy. Some colorectal surgeons will have specialized knowledge of IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), and have more experience with common IBD surgeries such as resections, ostomies, j-pouches, and strictureplasty.
A colorectal surgeon may not always advise their patients that surgery is the best course of action for them. At times, a colorectal surgeon is consulted simply to give a patient more options, or to help determine if it might be better to wait for surgery.
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What is the workplace of a Colorectal Surgeon like?
Colorectal surgeons work in hospitals and perform hundreds of operations each year, often using minimally invasive (laparoscopic) surgery. They are also active in research, finding new and better ways of diagnosing and treating disease and in educating the next generation of surgeons.
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Rectal Cancer Surgery Outcomes Enhanced With Colorectal Surgeons
A new Mayo Clinic study shows that the type of surgeon and the type of hospital have a significant influence on long-term outcomes for patients who undergo surgery for rectal cancer.
Colorectal Surgeon vs Gastroenterologist
Many patients often do not know if they need to see a Colon and Rectal Surgeon or a Gastroenterologist for their symptoms or condition. Moreover, even more are confused as to the difference between a Colon and Rectal Surgeon and a Gastroenterologist. The differences between the two specialties can be quite large.
“What made You Want to Be a Colorectal Surgeon?”
Usually, when people find out what I do, the polite ones will respond in a little bit of shock, but they will say “Ohhh, thats nice…”. The ones that are less inhibited will still have the same shock, but will ask, sometimes giggling, “Eww, why did you go into THAT?!”