Just about everyone has, at one time or another, used the expression, “I feel it in my gut.” Most of the time, all that means is that the speaker has had a hunch.
But, if and when the time comes that you actually do “feel it in your gut,” you should consult a board-certified gastroenterologist such as Rya Kaplan, MD, who practices at East Cooper GI.
One of the more frequent issues Dr. Kaplan deals with on a regular basis is diverticulosis, which becomes “very common as we age.”
“These are little pockets that form in the colon,” Dr. Kaplan explained. “It’s like having little hernias in the wall of your colon.”
Dr. Kaplan noted that diverticulosis per se may not cause a patient any problems.
“But if you get a pain in your abdomen, it could be diverticulitis, an inflammation of those little pockets that can cause considerable pain,” she said.
The first clue that diverticulitis could be the culprit of abdominal pain can come from a patient’s previous colonoscopies, which may have identified diverticular pockets in the large intestine.
“If a patient is strongly suspected of having diverticulitis,” Dr. Kaplan noted, “we will often treat the condition empirically with antibiotics. If we are uncertain, we will order a CT scan to get confirmation of diverticulitis and then treat with antibiotics.”
Typically, the treatment regimen for diverticulitis includes two different types of antibiotics and some targeted changes in diet.
“During an episode of diverticulitis, in addition to the antibiotics, I recommend plenty of fluids and a low-fiber diet. But if a patient just has diverticulosis, then I recommend the addition of more fiber to the patient’s diet, whether from eating plenty of vegetables or adding one of the popular over-the-counter fiber supplements to the patient’s daily routine to prevent further diverticulosis from forming. With an appropriate antibiotic treatment and dietary changes, the prognosis for most cases of diverticulitis is remediation in 10 to 14 days,” Dr. Kaplan explained.
More threatening than diverticulosis or diverticulitis, of course, is the possibility of colon cancer, which may not present with obvious symptoms and lends considerably more importance to regularly-scheduled colonoscopies. The majority of colon cancers arise from colon polyps, which can be easily detected by undergoing a colonoscopy, a procedure Dr. Kaplan highly recommends, particularly for an aging population.
“For a long time,” she said, “colonoscopy has been recommended for average risk patients starting at age 50. Now the American Cancer Society is recommending that average risk colonoscopy screening should begin at age 45.”
“About 30% to 40% of adults have polyps in our colons,” she added. “And early detection of these polyps through examination is very important. This is because some polyps are precancerous or may show signs of early stage cancers and not cause symptoms. The goal with a colonoscopy is to remove those precancerous polyps before they turn into cancer, and find early stage colon cancers which have a very good chance of being successfully surgically removed.”
Dr. Kaplan warned, “If you wait until you have symptoms such as pain, blood in the stool or unexplained weight loss, we frequently find not only cancer but cancer that has already metastasized or spread to the liver and other vital organs.”
So before you “feel it in your gut,” it’s probably time to schedule that colonoscopy procedure you may have been putting off. Take it from Dr. Kaplan.
For more information about Dr. Rya Kaplan and East Cooper GI, visit www.EastCooperGI.com or call 843-936-5970.
By Bill Farley