How To Choose A Gastroenterologist
A gastroenterologist (gastro- enter -- ol -- ogist), is a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the digestive system.
A gastroenterologist is generally the doctor that performs the diagnostic procedure that results in a diagnosis of colorectal cancer. After treatment, he or she is likely to be the doctor who will perform follow-up examinations, and colonoscopies. Particularly with respect to follow-up exams, the quality and experience of the doctor is important because if there is a recurrence, you want it to be found as soon as possible. (The earlier colorectal cancer is found, the more positive the outcome).
Following are some of the most common questions to ask a gastroenterologist:
- What type of training have you completed? Ideally, a gastroenterologist should have completed a residency in internal medicine as well as specialized training in gastroenterology.
- Are you board certified? Board certification indicates that the person has extensive training and experience, has passed national testing and meets ethical standards.
- Do you hold a fellowship in gastroenterology? A fellowship is a special honor conferred on those doctors who have exhibited excellence.
- How many colonoscopies do you do each month? The more the better -- but not so many that the doctor is more like a factory than a careful doctor.
- What hospitals or treatment centers are you affiliated with? Your gastroenterologist should be affiliated with a hospital and/or treatment center that is accredited.
- Where would the procedure be performed? The procedure may be performed at a hospital or treatment center or it may take place in an ambulatory surgery center.
- How often do you complete the entire colonoscopy when you perform one? Examining the colon clear through to the cecum is important. The amount of times that the gastroenterologist is able to do this is called the "cecal intubation rate." This rate should be greater than 90% (which means he/she is able to do this 9 out of 10 times).
- How long will it take you to complete my colonoscopy? Studies have shown that lesions are more often detected when the gastroenterologist takes longer than six minutes while withdrawing the colonoscope slowly.
- How many perforations have you had while performing a colonoscopy? A perforation is a hole in the bowel. Perforation of the bowel is the most serious complication that can occur during a colonoscopy.
NOTE: You do not have to see the same gastroenterologist for follow up exams as the doctor who was involved in your diagnosis.