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Gastroenterology Blog

11 Common Causes of Rectal Bleeding

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 @ 1:47 PM

11_Common_Causes_of_Rectal_Bleeding.jpeg

Why is there blood in my stool?

It’s a question we never want to ask, but it’s one in vital need of an answer. Even a slight presence of blood in your stool or on the toilet tissue hints that bleeding is occurring in the digestive tract. The darker the appearance of the blood, the higher up on the digestive tract the blood entered the stool. Bright red blood can be the result of anal bleeding or problems in the lower intestinal tract. But this is not an absolute rule by which you can make decisions.

Although bright red blood may suggest that it is from hemorrhoids, sometimes there may be another serious underlying problem. If the physician performs necessary evaluation and decides that the bleeding is from hemorrhoids, that is acceptable. Assuming that the bleeding is from hemorrhoids because is it small amount or because it is bright red in color, or based on someone else’s experience is somewhat risky. There are some patients who may have colon cancer and have minimal or NO  bleeding. The most common symptom of colon cancer is …no symptom!

So please don’t ignore, postpone or assume something when a serious symptom like blood in the stool occurs. Appropriate evaluation gives you peace of mind and relief from your symptoms. Most of these underlying causes have effective management and there is no need to suffer.

The 11 most common causes of rectal bleeding are

  1. Anal fissures, which are small cuts or tears in the lining of the anus, can appear after passing a particularly hard stool.
  2. Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the lower rectum, which can cause pain, itching, and difficulty sitting, as well as the appearance of bright red blood. The good news is that there is no need for painful surgery in most cases due to recent developments in non-surgical techniques which are easy, pain-free, in-office and very effective.
  3. An anal fistula is a small channel that forms between the anal canal and the skin surrounding the anus. Along with minor bleeding, it can cause swelling, tenderness, and persistent discharge/drainage. Currently, the only remedy for an anal fistula is surgery.
  4. Gastroenteritis is a sudden-onset intestinal infection, which can be viral, bacterial, or parasitic. In addition to blood in the stool, gastroenteritis is characterized by diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, and body aches. If gastroenteritis recurs or lasts longer than 2 days, we recommend further evaluation by a trained digestive specialist.
  5. Peptic ulcers are sores in the esophagus, stomach, or the lining of the upper part of the small intestine. Depending on the location of the sores, the blood in the stool may appear darker, possibly even black. In addition, you may experience burning pain in the stomach, which worsens as the stomach empties, heartburn, nausea and vomiting, bloating, appetite changes, and weight loss. If left untreated peptic ulcers can cause severe damage to the lining of your digestive system, so please seek help immediately if symptoms of peptic ulcers persist.
  6. Diverticular disease is defined by the development of small bulges—or diverticula—in the lining of the colon. Along with rectal bleeding, diverticular disease—and diverticulitis—include severe abdominal pain, bloating, high fever, and frequent diarrheal bowel movements.
  7. Angiodysplasia occurs more often in older adults and is defined by swollen, fragile blood vessels in the colon. If the swelling worsens, small passages ways can form between the artery and vein, resulting in bleeding from the colon wall, which can manifest as bright red or black blood in the stool. Angiodysplasia is also characterized by weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, and anemia.
  8. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, can cause ulcers, abscesses, and scarring in the intestinal lining over time. Blood in the stool is often accompanied by diarrhea, fever, weight loss, and abdominal pain.
  9. Bleeding varices: When dilated blood vessels (varices) in the esophagus and stomach rupture and bleed, they can be life-threatening. If your black, tarry, or bloody stool is accompanied by vomiting blood, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, or rapid heart rate, seek medical attention immediately. If not addressed, the sufferer can go into shock.
  10. Colon polyps are noncancerous growths in the colon or rectal lining. Though colon polyps are normally asymptomatic, they can cause rectal bleeding, sudden changes in bowel habits, and constipation or diarrhea that lasts for more than a week. Though colon polyps are not necessarily cancerous, they can develop into colon or colorectal cancer, so it’s vital to get screened by a skilled gastroenterologist immediately.
  11. Colon cancer may cause blood in the stool, anywhere from minimal bleeding to significant amount. Sometimes it may not cause any bleeding at all and be completely asymptomatic. Everyone 50 years and above needs SCREENING COLONOSCOPY (done in the absence of symptoms as a prevention/ wellness check) to identify precancerous polyps and remove them before they could become cancer. Sometimes cancer may cause abdominal pain, weight loss or anemia.

While rectal bleeding can be the result of many intestinal or anal issues that are not life-threatening and can resolve themselves, it can also be an early indication of a more severe digestive tract issue. If you are experiencing rectal bleeding, you may want to take the next step in protecting your future with preventative screenings, like colonoscopy.  The Gastroenterology Associates are specialized and highly experienced in screening for, detecting, and treating colorectal cancer and the precursors to colorectal cancer (ie polyps).  Contact the Gastroenterology Associates for an appointment today, either through our online appointment request here or by contacting our office here.

 

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Topics: Cancer, Hemmorhoids, Colon Polyps, Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Polyps and Colonoscopy in Baton Rouge

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Tue, Oct 28, 2014 @ 3:47 PM

On Polyps and Previous Colonoscopies

colon Baton RougeA patient's report of a previous colonoscopy as, “it was normal” or “it showed such and such” is not sufficent and may suggest something entirely different when said in non-medical terms. Many patients say they had polyps but “they were nothing”, “they were benign”, or “they were not cancerous”. These statements leave the gastroenterologist totally in the dark on the actual medical history.

Polyps are growths in the colon (large intestine) that may grow and possibly become cancer. When seen during colonoscopy (sometimes mis-spelled or mis-pronounced as colonostomy or colonoscophy or colostomy), polyps are removed, assuming they are PRE-CANCEROUS, as most polyps are. Polyps should never be referred to as CANCEROUS, because if it has cancer, then it is considered colon cancer at that point, not a polyp anymore. It is for this reason that polyps are always BENIGN (which means it does not have cancer in it).

Polyps and Future Medical Care

 Polyps are nothing to worry about once they are removed, but it also means that you need follow-up colonoscopy exams to look for any more polyps that may develop in the future. Once you had polyps, it is important to do colonoscopies a little more frequently, about every 3-5 years, than if you never had a polyp.

If you have a family history of colon cancer or polyps in close relatives, it is also a reason to perform this exam more frequently, about every 5 years. When to perform a repeat colonoscopy depends on several factors, some of which you may not be able to adequately communicate to your doctor, hence the need to have the actual report of previous colonoscopy and pathology reports. These would confirm if your polyps were precancerous or not. Repeat colonoscopy depends on:

  • Presence of precancerous polyps
  • How well your bowel prep was performed (i.e. how clean your colon was- small amount of stool, corn, seeds, etc. limit a full exam)
  • If you have any inflammation in the colon such as Crohn’s or Colitis, when you may need frequent exams
  • If your polyp was completely removed
  • If your colon was completely examined, as sometimes the end may not be reached due to several reasons
  • Your family history of colon cancer or polyps
  • Your pathology report to confirm the nature of polyps

 Contact the Gastroenterology Associates to discuss any of this information further. We will be happy to direct you in your quest for digestive health and treatment of any GI problems in Baton Rouge.  Please call for an appointment at 225.927.1190.

15 facts about colorectal cancer

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: Cancer, Colon Polyps

How Do Polyps Play Into Colon Cancer?

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Fri, Oct 03, 2014 @ 3:51 PM

colon_polyp_removal_Baton_RougeColon polyps are noncancerous growths in the lining of the colon or rectum. Although polyps are not cancerous in and of themselves, they can become cancerous later on. Screening for colon polyps can help prevent the development of colon cancer, by allowing thier removal before they turn into cancer.

Colon Polyps Can Become Cancerous

On their own, polyps are not cancerous. However, if they mutate and begin to grow out of control, they can become cancerous. When someone says they had “benign” polyps, they are right in that the polyps are not “malignant” (meaning cancer). Most of the time they are PRE-cancerous polyps, even when they are benign. That implies the need for more frequent surveillance to look for more polyps in the future, as well as screening their family members earlier, mostly at 40 years of age, instead of 50.

There are two types of polyps: raised and flat. Flat polyps are both more difficult to detect and more likely to turn into cancer.

Polyps Do Not Usually Cause Symptoms

Colon polyps do not usually cause any symptoms, and the same is true of early-stage colon cancer. The fact that polyps do not cause symptoms in most cases is one reason why screening is so important. The “Don’t fix it if it’s not broke” doesn’t work in the colon, because the cancer may be advanced by the time it causes symptoms.

In some cases, people with colon polyps do develop symptoms. All of the symptoms can also indicate other colon problems, including colon cancer, so it is important to see a doctor if you notice:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Sudden changes in bowel habits, like frequent constipation or diarrhea
  • More than a week of constipation or diarrhea

Your doctor can determine if these symptoms are from colon cancer or other causes such as hemorrhoids or inflammation in the colon,etc.

Polypectomy

One of the major goals of routine colonoscopy is to screen for colon polyps. The procedure is used as a screening tool for all people over 50, as well as some other at-risk groups. Because colon polyps have the potential to become cancerous later on, their removal can prevent the development of cancer.

During a colonoscopy, the doctor views the inside of the colon, looking for growths areas of inflammation and colon polyps. If the colonoscopy reveals colon polyps, polypectomy can actually be performed during the colonoscopy.

What to Expect During a Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy is quick to perform, has very little downtime, and is not painful. If you hear someone say their colonoscopy was painful, it must have been in the days before their sedation. Currently anesthesia is provided by a trained professional and you are completely comfortable. Most people wake up after the procedure asking when we are going to start. It is important to have a trained person administer your anesthesia, so they can monitor you carefully during the procedure.

The night before the procedure, you refrain from eating and drink a solution that makes you go to the bathroom frequently until the bowel is completely empty. Most people have concerns about the prep but recent developments have reduced the quantity and improved the quality of the prep. Your doctor can determine the prep that is best suited for you.

During the procedure, you will be placed under sedation, which prevents you from feeling or remembering anything. Once you are sedated, the doctor inserts a thin tube with a camera on the end, known as a colonoscope, into the colon. The colonoscope produces a video of the inside of the colon. If colon polyps are found, polypectomy is performed. If larger abnormalities are detected, the doctor can take a biopsy.

After the colonoscopy, you can return to almost all normal eating and activities immediately. The only exception is related to the use of sedation, which can impair judgment and reaction times. People who have sedation must wait 24 hours to drive, operate heavy machinery, or sign contracts.

If you would like to schedule a Baton Rouge colonoscopy or a consultation about bowel health, please contact us at Gastroenterology Associates by calling (225) 927-1190 or by clicking here for an online appointment request.

15 facts about colorectal cancer

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: Cancer, Colon Polyps, Colonoscopy

Colon Polyps: What you should know

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Tue, Oct 22, 2013 @ 10:18 AM

Colon polyps are growths inside the large intestine, also known as the colon. Polyps can take several forms, and they are often a prelude to colon cancer if left untreated. Since colon cancer is one of the most common cancers, encompassing 15% of all cancer diagnoses, it's important to be aware of what polyps are, how they are detected, and what their presence means.

Types of Polyps
colon polyp baton rouge

Polyps can occur anywhere along the length of the large intestine. Polyps can be either raised or flat. Flat polyps are harder to detect, and they are also more likely to become cancerous.

Symptoms


The majority of people with colon polyps have no symptoms, which is one reason why routine screening is so important. However, some people have symptoms that can include:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Blood in the stool, which can turn the stool black or look like red streaks
  • New/recent changes in bowel habits
  • Constipation for longer than a week
  • Diarrhea for longer than a week

What Does it Mean?

If you are diagnosed with a colon polyp, it does not mean that you have cancer. Some polyps are benign, and many are pre-cancerous, while some already are cancerous. Because of the potential for polyps to become colon cancer, it's important to screen for polyps routinely during a colonoscopy. Diagnostic tools like a barium enema may also be used for diagnosis, but you will need a colonoscopy to remove any polyps found by barium enema or other tests.

The treatment for colon polyps is not intensive, and the outlook is very good. Most polyps can actually be removed while your colonoscopy is being performed, preventing the need to go through the procedure twice. After a polyp is removed, your doctor will test it for cancer.

Colonoscopy

Not all people need to get routine colonoscopies. The decision to screen is based on risk factors. If you meet one of the following, you should receive routine colonoscopies:

  • Over age 50
  • Family history of colon cancer
  • Personal history of polyps
  • Personal history of ovarian or uterine cancer before age 50 

Prevention

Although you cannot control a predisposition towards polyps, anyone can take steps towards prevention. Lifestyle factors play a considerable role in your risk of developing polyps or colon cancer.  A diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in red meat is best for your colon health.  Risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • High-fat diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use 

By being aware of risk factors for polyps and how to screen for them, you can help prevent them from developing and ensure that they are caught early on, in many cases before they are able to cause symptoms or develop into cancer.

By doing your colonoscopy and removing precancerous polyps, you have a better chance of preventing colon cancer.

If you would like to schedule a colonoscopy or learn more about preventative bowel health, please contact one of the doctors at Gastroenterology Associates at (225) 927-1190.

15 facts about colorectal cancer

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: Colon Polyps