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Gastroenterologists are internal medicine physicians specializing in the treatment of the digestive system, including the small and large intestines, colon, stomach, esophagus, and liver. They examine patients, prescribe drugs when needed, diagnose disease, and perform various procedures to treat those diseases.
Gastroenterologists work closely with other specialists to treat patients, such as oncologists (cancer specialists), cardiologists (heart specialists), and surgeons. The chronic nature of many gastrointestinal problems often results in long-term relationships between doctors and their patients.
Technological advances in gastroenterology have made the diagnosis and treatment of certain types of gastrointestinal problems much easier on the patient. One of these advances is endoscopy, the use of lighted, flexible tubes to peer into areas of the body that could only be seen during surgery before. The tubes and tools attached to them are controlled by computer.
One procedure making use of endoscopy is polyp removal. A polyp is a growth in the intestines that can become cancerous. In the past polyps were removed by surgery, but now they can be treated sooner and with fewer risks.