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Gastrointestinal Laboratory Services

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Digestive Health

Gastrointestinal issues, sometimes referred to as “GI” issues, often don’t go away on their own – and can seriously affect your quality of life. However, the physicians in HCH’s GI Lab offer comfort and relief of symptoms and can diagnose digestive and colorectal conditions.

The digestive system is complex and includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts, and liver. GI-related conditions can include, but are not limited to: 

  • Celiac disease
  • Colon cancer
  • Constipation, diarrhea, and loss of bowel control
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Diverticulosis
  • Gallstones
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Nausea and stomach pain
  • Ulcers

Lower Endoscopy Services (Colonoscopy)

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in adults, but it shouldn’t be. When colon cancer is found early, it can often be cured. 

The diagnosis rates in younger patients have been steadily increasing. To improve the chances of finding colorectal cancer in earlier stages and in a younger population, the recommended screening age was recently lowered to 45.

Why is Screening for Colorectal Cancer so Important?

Colorectal cancer can often be caught early or before it even starts. Screening looks for polyps in the colon or traces of blood in the stool that might indicate cancer. Polyps are unexpected growths of tissue in the colon. Most are harmless, but some polyps can develop into cancer over time. A polyp can take 10-15 years to grow into cancer. Early screening can catch them before they have a chance to develop into cancer. Polyps are often small and often don’t cause symptoms.

Recent screening guidelines recommend anyone with an average risk of developing colorectal cancer should be screened starting at age 45. Your doctor may recommend screening younger than 45 if you have increased risk factors.

American Cancer Society (ACS) Guidelines for Colorectal Cancer Screening

The ACS recommends that people at average risk* of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45. This can be done either with a sensitive test that looks for signs of cancer in a person’s stool (a stool-based test), or with an exam that looks at the colon and rectum (a visual exam).

People who are in good health and with a life expectancy of more than 10 years should continue regular colorectal cancer screening through the age of 75.

For people ages 76 through 85, the decision to be screened should be based on a person’s preferences, life expectancy, overall health, and prior screening history.

People over 85 should no longer get colorectal cancer screening.

*For screening, people are considered to be at average risk if they do not have:

  • A personal history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
  • A family history of colorectal cancer
  • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
  • A confirmed or suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or HNPCC)
  • A personal history of getting radiation to the abdomen (belly) or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer

If you are 45 years or older, or are experiencing GI issues (regardless of your age), please contact your primary care provider as soon as possible. Colon cancer is preventable, treatable—and beatable.

Upper Endoscopy Services (EGD)

Physicians may recommend an Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) to help diagnose upper GI conditions. An EGD procedure is similar to a colonoscopy, except a scope is inserted into the patient’s mouth and into their esophagus to examine the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. During the EGD, the physician will take photos and retrieve small tissue samples if needed to aid in determining a diagnosis.  

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