Gastroenterology is a branch of medicine that focuses on the digestive system and the treatment of its disorders. The digestive system can be affected by a large number of diseases which include infections, cancers and auto-immune diseases.
A gastroenterologist concentrates on the diagnosis and treatment of diseases involving the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine (colon), liver, gallbladder, and pancreas, including trouble with swallowing, heartburn, chest pain not due to heart disease, ulcers, problems with digestion and elimination, and symptoms occurring after surgery. A gastroenterologist follows patients with chronic gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn's Disease, ulcerative colitis, hepatitis and pancreatitis.
By using endoscopes (flexible fiberoptic instruments), the gastroenterologist can explore symptoms after the patient has been evaluated by the family physician and radiologist. This includes screening for colon cancer by sigmoidoscopy and the removal of polyps by colonoscopy.