Our Gastroenterology Blog
By GI Associates
March 20, 2018
Category: blog

 

Know your options 

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Getting screened is essential to the detection and prevention of colon cancer.

Choosing what’s best for you. 

Colonoscopy is the most common and effective colorectal cancer screening option because it is the only test that both detects and prevents colorectal cancer.

During a colonoscopy, your doctor examines the lining along the entire length of your large intestine. If your doctor sees abnormal growths of tissue called polyps, tiny instruments are inserted through the colonoscope to remove them. The tissue samples are sent to a pathologist to evaluate whether they are benign, precancerous or malignant. Screening colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years between 50 and 75 years of age. It may be more frequently based on your findings and risk factors.

Good for:

  • Patients with average to high risk of colon cancer
  • Preventing colon cancer

Stool DNA test

Another option you can discuss with your doctor is a stool DNA test such as Cologuard.

The stool DNA test looks for abnormal DNA associated with colon cancer or colon polyps and detects hidden blood in the stool, which can indicate the presence of cancer. If a stool DNA test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended.  The stool DNA test is recommended for average risk patients with no symptoms and is usually recommended every 3-5 years.

Good for:

  • Patients at average risk with no symptoms, conditions, personal or family history of colon cancer
  • Patients who cannot tolerate colonoscopy prep or procedure

Not recommended for:

  • Patients at higher risk with a personal history of colon polyps or cancer
  • Patients with underlying conditions and/or symptoms including:
    • inflammatory bowel conditions
    • diarrhea
    • blood in their urine or stool
    • bleeding hemorrhoids
    • rectal bleeding, or are menstruating.

If a stool DNA test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended to identify the source.  It is important to note that colonoscopy performed due to a positive stool DNA test is classified as a diagnostic service by most payers, so out of pocket costs may apply.

But wait, there’s more . . .

Other options include: Flexible sigmoidoscopy, double barium enema, and CT colonography. See our “Colon Cancer Screenings” blog to learn more about these.

The most important thing in the fight against colorectal cancer is screening. Early detection is crucial and potentially lifesaving. Fortunately, you have options. We encourage you to speak to your doctor about which screening is best for you.

If you have any concerns about coverage or payment for colon cancer screening services, our GI Associates Financial Counselor will work with you to help understand your benefits.  

Schedule your colon cancer screening today. Call 877-442-7736 or request an appointment online.

By GI Associates
March 07, 2018
Category: blog


                  




The choice is yours

When it comes to colon cancer, getting screened is an essential part in your wellness plan. The key is to do something and you have screening options.

It is recommended that colon cancer screening start at age 50 for men and women who are at an average risk with no symptoms.

If colorectal cancer runs in your family or you have certain underlying conditions, you may need to get tested before age 50. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.


Know your options

Colonoscopy is the most common test to detect colon cancer. Other tests include stool DNA tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, double barium enema, and CT colonography. Based on your personal health history, your doctor can recommend the right test for you.
 

1. Colonoscopy:  This is the only colorectal cancer screening option that both detects and prevents colorectal cancer. Prior to a procedure you complete a bowel preparation process that cleans out the colon to enable your doctor to see the lining of your rectum and colon. During a colonoscopy, your doctor gently inserts a colonoscope, which contains a tiny video camera at its tip, through the rectum into your large intestine.  Your doctor examines the lining along the entire length of your large intestine.

If your doctor sees abnormal growths of tissue called polyps, tiny instruments are inserted through the colonoscope to remove them. The tissue samples are sent to a pathologist to evaluate whether they are benign, precancerous or malignant. Screening colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years between 50 and 75 years of age. It may be more frequently based on your findings and risk factors. If you’d like to learn more about what to expect before a colonoscopy, check out our video.
 

2. Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT): FIT detects hidden blood in the stool, which can indicate the presence of cancer. When a FIT test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended.  FIT tests are recommended annually for average risk patients, age of 50 and over, with no symptoms.
 

3. Stool DNA Tests: The stool DNA test looks for abnormal DNA associated with colon cancer or colon polyps. The test also detects hidden blood in the stool, which can indicate the presence of cancer. If a stool DNA test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended.  The stool DNA test is recommended for average risk patients with no symptoms and is usually recommended every 3-5 years.

The stool DNA test is not recommended for higher risk patients with a personal history of colon polyps or cancer, or who have inflammatory bowel conditions, diarrhea, blood in their urine or stool, bleeding hemorrhoids, rectal bleeding, or are menstruating. It is important to note that colonoscopy performed due to a positive stool DNA test is often classified as a diagnostic service by most payers.
 

4. CT Colonography (also referred to as virtual colonoscopy): A small tube is placed in the rectum and air is pumped into the colon to inflate the bowel. A special computer program creates both 2-dimensional x-ray pictures and a 3-dimensional view of the inside of the colon and rectum, which lets the doctor look for polyps or cancer. If the test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended to remove the growths. Preparation is the same as a colonoscopy. This test may be recommended when completion of a colonoscopy is not possible. It is usually recommended every 5 years.
 

5. Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: Similar to colonoscopy, this test uses a thin flexible tube with a camera to examine the rectum and left side of the colon. Whereas colonoscopy examines the entire length of the colon, sigmoidoscopy is a partial exam. The preparation is the same as a colonoscopy. When considering colon cancer screening options, flexible sigmoidoscopy is not as complete as a colonoscopy and therefore is not widely recommended for screening purposes. It’s typically repeated every 5 years.
 

6. Double Barium Enema: This is also called a lower GI tract radiography, in which a barium solution and air are introduced into the colon and a series of x-rays are taken of the entire colon and rectum. Double Barium Enema is often performed in combination with a flexible sigmoidoscopy.  If the either of these test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended.
 

Early detection of colorectal cancer is crucial and potentially lifesaving. The most important step you can take is to get screened. GI Associates is proud to offer options to our patients so that together we can determine the best plan for you.

If you have any concerns about coverage or payment for colon cancer screening services, our GI Associates Financial Counselor will work with you to help understand your benefits.  

Schedule your colon cancer screening today. Call 877-442-7736 or request an appointment online.

By GI Associates
March 02, 2018
Category: blog
Tags: colon cancer  

8 ways to minimize your risk

 Colon Cancer Awareness Month is here. At GI Associates, we are passionate about the prevention and treatment of this potentially deadly disease. Below are eight ways you can minimize your risk of colon cancer:

  1. Don’t Smoke There’s nothing that is helped by smoking. You can reduce your risk for almost every kind of cancer when you quit. Find more reasons and help here.
  2. Drink in Moderation While some alcohol in moderation, like a glass of red wine with dinner, may have some health benefits.  Keep in mind it’s better for your colon—and the rest of you, if you drink only in moderation.
  3. Cut Back on Red Meat As with alcohol, a moderate amount of red meat (2-3 servings a week) is just fine. However, studies have shown that a high consumption of red meat can increase your risk of colon cancer by 28%. Save the steak for special occasions.
  4. Eat Vegetables, Fruits, and Whole Grains Naturally, cutting back on red meat and replacing it with, say, chicken strips will not do you nearly as much good as it will to replace unhealthy foods with the holy trinity of cancer-fighting foods: green veggies, antioxidant-rich fruit, and whole grains.
  5. Healthy Lifestyle: Exercise Exercise is good for you for many reasons, and one of them is that it reduces your risk of colon and other cancers. In fact, exercise helps fight colon cancer even in those who have the disease.
  6. Healthy Lifestyle: Weight No surprise here. Even otherwise healthy people who are overweight are at a higher risk for colon cancer.
  7. Get screened.  It’s not anyone’s favorite thing, but getting regular colonoscopies is the best way to prevent colon cancer. Learn more about them here.
  8. Know Your Family History If your primary relatives (mother, father, brother or sister or your children) is diagnosed with colon cancer, you are at higher risk. Ask around at your next family gathering to make sure you know your family history.

One of the very few “good things” colon cancer has going for it is that it’s preventable. We encourage you to make an appointment to learn more about how to stay free of colon cancer your whole life long.

 

 

By GI ASSOCIATES
February 21, 2018
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Ulcerative Colitis  

Find out more about this inflammatory bowel disease and what a diagnosis might mean for you.

Have you or a loved one just been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis? Approximately 907,000 Americans have ulcerative colitis, a type of ulcerative colitisinflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation and ulcers within the lining of the colon (large intestines) and rectum. Our Wausau, WI, gastroenterologists are here to answer all of your most common questions regarding this intestinal condition.

What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?

Symptoms will vary from person to person, but many people with this condition experience mild to moderate symptoms during flare-ups; however, some people with experience severe inflammation and other symptoms. Common symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding and/or pain
  • Changes in bowel movement frequency
  • Fatigue
  • Unexpected or sudden weight loss

Keep in mind that if you haven’t been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and you are experiencing some of these symptoms that it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have this type of IBD. In fact, many gastrointestinal issues have similar symptoms, which is why it’s important to visit one of our Wausau GI specialists for a proper diagnosis.

Is ulcerative colitis the same as Crohn’s disease?

While both of these conditions are considered an inflammatory bowel disease and some symptoms may be the same, there are some differences. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation in the lining of the colon and rectum while Crohn’s disease can produce inflammation anywhere in the digestive tract from the mouth to the rectum.  Crohn’s disease may include symptoms such as mouth sores and anal fissures that do not typically occur for people with ulcerative colitis.

How is ulcerative colitis treated?

There are different medications that can effectively manage your ulcerative colitis symptoms. The two most common medications are prescription-strength anti-inflammatories and immunosuppressants. Depending on the symptoms you experience, you may also take over-the-counter pain relievers, anti-diarrheal medications, or even certain supplements.

The only way to get rid of ulcerative colitis is by removing the colon and rectum. This surgical procedure should only be considered if inflammation or ulcers are severe and cannot be controlled through medication.

GI Associates is ready to provide you with the comprehensive gastrointestinal care you need. We have offices in Wausau, Stevens Point, Woodruff, Eagle River, Rhinelander, and Antigo, WI, to serve you better. Regardless of whether you are looking for ulcerative colitis treatment or you are dealing with symptoms, call one of our offices today for an appointment.

By GI Associates
January 05, 2018
Category: blog
Tags: GERD; Snacks  

When your stomach is growling so loudly that the person across the room can hear it, it’s tempting to grab a handful of chips or a cookie (or three). But if you have GERD, mindless snacking can have painful consequences. Be prepared for when the hunger pangs hit by adding these reflux-busting snacks to your grocery list.

  • Non-citrus fruits
  • Crackers with any type of nut butter
  • Raw vegetables with dip or hummus
  • Baked chips
  • Edamame
  • Pretzels
  • Nuts
  • Half an avocado and some corn chips
  • Baked chicken strips (or any small quantity of lean meat, besides red meat)
  • Oatmeal or high-fiber cereal
  • A baked potato, sweet potato, or yam
  • Any type of grain
  • Rice cakes
  • Granola bars
  • Salad
  • Half a bagel
  • Lowfat dairy, such as lowfat cottage cheese with vegetables or crackers or fruit
  • A hard-boiled egg
  • A veggie or fruit (non-citrus) smoothie  

Moderation is key

Even when you choose healthy snacks, too much of a good thing is, well, not good at all – especially when you have GERD. Limit your nibbles to small serving sizes, which will keep both your hunger and reflux under control. Experts recommend that you eat three small meals and two snacks daily.

Plan ahead and keep reflux-friendly foods within easy reach for when the hunger pangs hit. Board-certified gastroenterologists at GI Associates can help you manage GERD symptoms and create a diet plan that works best for you. For more information, call 715.847.2558 or fill out our online form today.

By GI ASSOCIATES
December 26, 2017
Category: Crohn’s Disease
Tags: crohn's disease  

Find out more about this common bowel disease and its symptoms.

Have you, or a member of your family, recently been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease? If so, then you may be wondering more about this Crohn's diseasegastrointestinal condition, what causes it and how it’s managed. Our Wausau, WI, gastroenterologists are here to shed a little light on this condition that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans.

What is Crohn’s disease?
This condition causes inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract, which can result in everything from bloody stools to abdominal pain to diarrhea. This condition can even cause inflammation within other areas of the body including the eyes, joints and skin.

What causes this condition?
Unfortunately, the cause of Crohn’s disease is still not fully understood. Some research believes that it could be due to an autoimmune disease, which causes the immune system to attack important gut bacteria, resulting in inflammation.

What are the symptoms?
Those with Crohn’s disease may find that symptoms come and go. You may have weeks or months of remission marked with sudden onset of flare-ups. Symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia

Gastrointestinal inflammation can be severe enough to cause digestive tract blockages or perforation, severe pain or fever. These are serious and potentially life-threatening medical conditions and requires immediate medical attention.

How is this type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) treated?
While there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, this condition can be managed with medications and lifestyle modifications. The type of medication our gastroenterologists will prescribe depends upon the severity and location of the inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract. Certain medications such as anti-inflammatories (e.g. corticosteroids), immune-modulators and antibiotics can help manage symptoms, reduce flare-ups and speed up remission.

Have questions about Crohn’s disease? Are you noticing any symptoms that have you concerned? If so, then it’s time you called GI Associates & GI Associates Endoscopy Center in Wausau, Stevens Point, Antigo, Rhinelander, Woodruff and Eagle River, WI, to help you determine whether you may have this inflammatory bowel disease or if it’s something else. Call 877-442-7762 today to schedule an appointment.

By GI Associates
November 16, 2017
Category: blog
Tags: Holiday; GERD  

'Tis the season for smart eating


With the holidays approaching, you’ve no doubt thought about the wonders of the season: that first snowfall, the singing of children, and Mom’s green bean casserole. Or maybe Grandma’s famous stuffing, or Cousin Jim’s signature deep-fried turkey. The point is, it’s hard to think about the holiday season without thinking about the food and the fun that comes with it.

However, if you’re among the 60% of Americans who experience GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) at least once a year, the indulgences of the holidays might make the season particularly painful. Here are some tips for avoiding painful symptoms during the holidays.

Round Up the Usual Suspects


And dispose of them! We all know the primary culinary culprits for acid reflux and GERD, but a reminder is good now and then. Many of these appear frequently on holiday tables, so look out!

  • Fatty foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Acidic foods, like tomatoes and citrus
  • Mint
  • Chocolate
  • Onions
  • Coffee or any caffeinated beverage
  • Carbonated beverages

Eat More Meals with Less


Eating five or six little meals is a much better idea than eating three big meals for a number of reasons. You feel fuller more of the time, you tend to eat less, there is less pressure on your esophagus, and, you guessed it, GERD is reduced.

Take a Stand


Or at the very least, don’t lie down. Although it’s the tempting thing to do—especially after a big meal like Thanksgiving, taking a nap is terrible for GERD symptoms. Keep upright and let your digestive system do its thing—without having to work against gravity. Your stomach and esophagus will thank you.

Go Easy on the Drinks


Alcohol can trigger heartburn and GERD because it relaxes the muscles in your esophagus, making conditions optimal for acid to sneak up your esophagus and wreak havoc. Consider the consequences and then ask yourself if that cocktail is really worth it.

Quit Smoking


As if you needed another reason to quit! Among a whole list of other bad things, smoking, like alcohol, may actually cause your muscles in your esophagus to relax, which can cause stomach acid to rise up and cause pain.

Lose Weight


The holidays are usually when you can expect a few pounds to creep up on you, but be vigilant: taking steps to lose weight or at least not gain more weight will help relieve heartburn and GERD symptoms. Obesity is closely linked to not only heartburn but also many other serious health conditions, so take the holidays in stride and be ready to keep or achieve a healthy weight in 2018.

For more information on GERD and heartburn, plus tips on how to treat them, visit http://www.giassoc.org/heartburn.html

By GI Associates
September 19, 2017
Category: blog

GI Associates is proud to support the annual Crohn’s and Colitis walk

Dr. Eric Johnson is the Honorary Chair of Wausau’s “Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis” walk. The event will take place on October 7th. It’s a cause that means a lot to him as a gastroenterologist—and as a son.

 

“When I was growing up, my dad had a significant case of Crohn’s disease. It was hard to watch someone you idolize suffer like he did. It was one of the reasons I went into gastroenterology,” says Dr. Johnson.

 

Today, the outlook for those diagnosed with Crohn’s or colitis is much better. “Much better than even ten years ago,” says Dr. Johnson. “We’re getting closer to a cure, but we still have a ways to go.”

 

It’s Dr. Johnson’s fourth year of being involved with the walk.

 

The walk is a celebration of those fighting these diseases as well as an opportunity to educate people about Crohn’s and colitis.

 

“It’s a great event,” says Dr. Johnson. “It raises money and awareness for Crohn’s and colitis. We have foods that are Crohn’s and colitis-friendly, ‘heroes’ who come and speak about their experience with the disease, and lots of people who are there to support loved ones suffering from Crohn’s or colitis.”

 

Even more important than the money and awareness that the walk raises, says Dr. Johnson, is the sense of community it gives people living with Crohn’s and colitis.

 

“These are silent diseases,” says Dr. Johnson. “There hasn’t been a lot of access to education, historically, in this part of the state. This walk is changing that.”

 

What does a successful walk look like to Dr. Johnson? “Every year we’ve grown,” he says. “This year’s event will be successful if we reach even more people, raise more money for a cure, and show everyone living with Crohn’s and colitis that there is support for them.”

 

For more information on the walk, visit the website here.

 

 

By GI ASSOCIATES
August 16, 2017
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Diarrhea  

Find out what could be causing this rather embarrassing problem and how you can treat it.Diarrhea
 
Diarrhea happens to almost everyone at some point in their lives. Most of the time it will run its course in a day or two. Of course, there are some situations when symptom may stick around longer than you had hoped.
 
Some of the most common causes of diarrhea include:

  • Viral gastroenteritis
  • Bacterial infection (e.g. food poisoning)
  • Medications
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Stress
  • Food Sensitivities
  • Inflammatory bowel syndrome (e.g. ulcerative colitis; Crohn’s disease)
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Radiation therapy

Your primary care provider can help you manage the majority of diarrheal causes. If your diarrhea continues, or additional symptoms like abdominal pain occur, a gastroenterology consultation may be needed.
How is diarrhea treated?
Mild symptoms are usually well managed with over-the-counter medications. Your primary care provider may also consider additional medications, lab or radiology testing in certain circumstances.
 
Remember to continue to drink liquids throughout the day to stay hydrated.
 
If your symptoms continue your primary care provider may refer you to GI Associates. Prior to your appointment, we will gather information from your primary care provider’s office about treatments and testing have already been performed.  We will ask you questions about your symptoms and, from there, decide what additional diagnostic tests may be needed.
 
If underlying conditions such as Celiac or Crohn’s disease are suspected, we may recommend an endoscopy procedure be performed.  
 
From there we can work with you to manage your symptoms through daily lifestyle changes and certain medications.
 
GI Associates in Wausau, WI, is committed to providing the very best in gastrointestinal care. If you are experiencing any changes or digestive health concerns, please call our office to make an appointment. Our board certified gastroenterologists are here to help.
 
For your convenience, we offer services in a Wausau, Stevens Point, Antigo, Rhinelander, Woodruff and Eagle River. 

By GI Associates
July 06, 2017
Category: blog

Stay regular as you travel this summer

It’s summertime, and chances are you’ve got travel plans coming up! There are lots of things to love about travel—seeing new sights, experiencing new things, and making your world just a little bigger. Unfortunately, there’s one thing that can put a damper on even the trip of a lifetime: digestive issues.

Don’t let constipation or diarrhea cramp your style (or your stomach). Be prepared and stay regular, even on the other side of the world.

Stay hydrated.

From the moment those wheels go up, to the second your plane lands, it’s essential to stay hydrated. Whatever mode of transportation you’re using, it’s important to keep drinking water, but airplanes are particularly dehydrating spaces. The recirculate air and the inability to move around very much takes its toll on your body. And guess what? The four ounces of water they pass out every six hours is not going to be enough. Either buy the biggest bottle of water you can find after you pass through security or be prepared to ring the call button again and again.

Eat fiber.

Alas, going on vacation doesn’t mean you can take a break from eating smart. Avoid indulging too much in low-fiber foods, however tempting they may be. And if nothing else, make it a point to eat a healthy, high-fiber breakfast and start the day right.

Keep moving.

Go out and see the sights! Climb the ancient ruins, walk though the old town, and be active on your journey! Walking and other exercise is as good for your heart as it is for your digestive system.

Don't drink the water. 

In certain parts of the world, tap water can wreak havoc on your digestive system. Buy bottled water to avoid diarrhea and other stomach issues.

Don’t let digestive issues ruin your summer travel. Don’t spend the whole time in the bathroom or wishing you were! Take the proper precautions, eat and drink smart, and have happy memories to last a lifetime!





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