Digestive Health (Gastroenterology)

Diagram of the Digestive TrackGastroenterology is a specialty focused on preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases of the digestive system. This includes disorders of the appendix, esophagus, stomach, intestine, gall bladder, colon, rectum, bile ducts, pancreas and liver.

Digestion is the process by which food and drink are broken down into smaller parts so that the body can use them to build and nourish cells, and to provide energy. Learn more about how the digestive system works.

Each year, millions of Americans are diagnosed with digestive disorders, ranging from the occasional upset stomach to the more life-threatening colorectal cancer. They encompass disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, as well as the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.

Most digestive diseases are very complex, with subtle symptoms, and the causes of many remain unknown. They may be inherited or develop from multiple factors such as stress, fatigue, diet, or smoking. Abusing alcohol imposes the greatest risk for digestive diseases.

Reaching a diagnosis requires a thorough and accurate medical history and physical examination. Some patients may need to undergo more extensive diagnostic evaluations, including lab tests, endoscopic procedures, and imaging techniques.

Colon cancer affects more than 140,000 Americans each year, yet is easily treatable when detected early. Learn more about when you should get screened for colon cancer.

Other types of cancer that affect the digestive organs include esophageal cancer, bile duct cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer and pancreatic cancer.

Physicians who specialize in the treatment of digestive problems are called gastroenterologists. Find a gastroenterologist.