There are many problems that can affect the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
The lower GI tract includes the small intestine, large intestine (called the colon), rectum, and anus. Most of the food you consume is absorbed in the small intestine. The leftover waste material then travels through the large intestine, which absorbs the water from the digested material, leaving solid matter that passes out of the body as stool during a bowel movement.
Problems Affecting the Lower GI Tract
Problems can occur anywhere along the GI tract. Common disorders that may indicate a problem in the lower GI tract include:
- Anal fissures or abscess
- Chronic diarrhea, constipation
- Colon cancer
- Colon polyps
- Crohn’s disease
- Diverticulitis, diverticulosis
- Intestinal bleeding
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Rectal bleeding
- Stomach pain or discomfort
- Ulcerative colitis
If the GI symptoms you are experiencing are chronic or severe, see your gastrointestinal physician for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Your treatment is more likely to be successful when the issue is identified early on.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If your physician suspects a problem in your lower GI tract, a colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy may be recommended. These procedures offer a combination of diagnosis and on-the-spot treatment, depending on what is discovered. For example, if polyps are discovered, they may be biopsied or removed altogether during the procedure.
Colon Cancer Screenings
Colon cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer – if you undergo regular colon cancer screenings. Having a periodic colonoscopy can identify growths (called polyps) within your large intestine. Because almost all colon cancers begin as a polyp, this type of screening is very effective at removing suspicious tissue before cancer has a chance to develop. It is also particularly important to have regular colonoscopies because colon cancer typically causes no symptoms. When symptoms do appear, it may mean that the cancer has already significantly advanced.