Oregon Medical Group’s Gastroenterologists take care of Eugene and Springfield area patients’ gastrointestinal (GI) disorders and issues through preventative care (colonoscopies for cancer screening, for example) and diagnosis and treatment of stomach upset, bowel problems and other irritations of the digestive system, including irritable bowel syndrome and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). We often use endoscopy, a common diagnostic procedure that lets us look inside the upper digestive tract and first part of the small intestine to identify inflammation, ulcers and tumors. Endoscopy can also be used for some treatments.
The importance of colonoscopies, colon cancer and screening
The colon is the part of digestive system where the waste material is stored. The rectum is the end of the colon adjacent to the anus. Together, they form a long, muscular tube called the large intestine (also known as the large bowel). Tumors of the colon and rectum are growths arising from the inner wall of the large intestines.
Colon cancer generally does not have symptoms until later stages. Symptoms can include spotty rectal bleeding, a change in bowel habits, vague abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, or laboratory disturbance such as anemia. These symptoms are not specific or reliable, so waiting until they occur before deciding to have a colonoscopy is not recommended. Early detection significantly improves patient outcomes.
- An estimated 670 people will die from colorectal cancer in Oregon this year alone
- 6% of men and women will develop colorectal cancer in their lifetime
- 1 in 3 over age 50 will have polyps
- Colon polyps have no symptoms in most cases
- Colon cancer often occurs without symptoms until later stages
- Currently only 50% of Oregonians have had screening
Colonoscopy is the single best test for colon cancer screening and allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine (rectum and colon). The goal is not only to look for colon cancer, but to find and remove polyps at the time of the exam. Removing these polyps is the most effective way to prevent colon cancer. The National Polyp Study has shown that polyp removal with colonoscopy surveillance program can reduce the risk for colon cancer by up to 90%.
We recommend patients of all ages have an annual physical. Depending on your age and medical history, your physician may recommend you see a gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy. Email us to schedule your colonoscopy. (If you use the OMG patient portal, you can schedule your appointment in the portal.)
About Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
When you have heartburn at least twice a week, it is called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. This is caused when stomach acid and juices flow from the stomach back up into the tube that leads from the throat to the stomach (esophagus) and cause heartburn. Normally when you swallow your food, it travels down the food pipe (esophagus) to a valve that opens to let the food pass into the stomach and then closes. With GERD, the valve doesn't close tightly enough.
Eating too much or bending forward after eating sometimes causes heartburn and a sour taste in your mouth. But having heartburn from time-to-time doesn't mean you have GERD. With GERD, the reflux and heartburn last longer and come more often. Pain from the heart usually feels like pressure, heaviness, weight, tightness, squeezing, discomfort, or a dull ache. It occurs most often after you are active. If you have pain behind your breastbone, it is important to make sure it is not caused by a problem with your heart. The burning sensation caused by GERD usually occurs after you eat. If this happens to you, it is important to treat it, because GERD can cause ulcers and damage to the esophagus.
To diagnose GERD your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you questions about your health. You may or may not need further tests. Your doctor may just treat your symptoms by prescribing medicines that reduce or block stomach acid. These include H2 blockers (for example, Pepcid) or proton pump inhibitors (for example, Prilosec). If your heartburn goes away after you take the medicine, your doctor will likely diagnose GERD.
Depending on your symptoms, your gastroenterologist may want to perform a test called an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. This allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your esophagus, stomach, and the first part of your small intestine (duodenum) through a thin, flexible viewing instrument called an endoscope.
Treatment for mild symptoms of GERD usually involves over-the-counter medicines. These include antacids (for example, Tums), H2 blockers (for example, Pepcid), or proton pump inhibitors (for example, Prilosec OTC). Changing your diet, losing weight if needed, and making other lifestyle changes can also help. If you still have symptoms after trying lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medicines, talk to your doctor.
Many people with GERD have it for the rest of their lives. You may need to take medicine for many years to help control the symptoms. You can also make changes to your lifestyle to help relieve your symptoms of GERD, too. Here are some things to try:
- Change your eating habits.
- It's best to eat several small meals instead of two or three large meals.
- After you eat, wait two to three hours before you lie down. Late night snacks aren't a good idea.
- Chocolate, mint, and alcohol can make GERD worse; they relax the valve between the esophagus and the stomach.
- Spicy foods, foods that have a lot of acid (like tomatoes and oranges), and coffee can make GERD symptoms worse in some people. If your symptoms are worse after you eat a certain food, you may want to stop eating that food to see if your symptoms get better. Do not smoke or chew tobacco.
- If you get heartburn at night, raise the head of your bed 6 in (15 cm) to 8 in (20 cm) by putting the frame on blocks or placing a foam wedge under the head of your mattress. (Adding extra pillows does not work.)
- Do not wear tight clothing around your middle. Lose weight if you need to. Losing just 5 to 10 pounds can help.
- Change your eating habits.
Preparation and instructions for a Colonoscopy
Preparation and instructions for an Upper Endoscopy