A Visit to the Proctologist

Medically reviewed by: Gary H. Hoffman, MD

There Is No Reason to Fear the Proctologist

If you develop symptoms related to your colon, rectum, or anus, you may need to visit a proctologist. Also known as a coloproctologist or colon and rectal surgeon, the proctologist is a specialist who diagnoses and treats hemorrhoids, anal fissures, colon cancer, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and many other conditions of the colon, rectum, or anus.

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Even without symptoms, your family doctor may recommend that you see a proctologist for a routine checkup or colonoscopy. Since a proctologist deals with “private parts” and topics that are generally taboo, it is only normal to be apprehensive about your first visit. Knowing what to expect can help put you at ease.

With a little bit of education and advice from family or friends who have “been there” before you – you will sail through the visit and be glad that you went.

Do I Really Need This Visit?

Some of the most common reasons why people see a proctologist include:

  • For a preventative or diagnostic colonoscopy
  • Rectal bleeding
  • A change in bowel habits
  • Anal itching
  • Rectal discharge
  • Rectal protrusion
  • A painful anal lump
  • An STD (sexually transmitted disease)
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • A family history of polyps or colorectal cancer

Proctologists Treat a Wide Range of Conditions

Colorectal surgeons not only perform surgery on the colon, rectum, and anus, but they also diagnose and treat many other conditions. This includes:

  • A hemorrhoid
  • A fissure
  • An abscess or a fistula
  • Erosions, or raw areas around the anus
  • A sexually transmitted disease
  • A colon polyp
  • A malignant colon or rectal tumor (colon or rectal cancer)
  • Anal cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Diverticulitis or diverticulosis
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Abdominal pain

Some People Prefer Female Colon and Rectal Surgeons

In some cases, it may reduce your anxiety about going to the proctologist if you can request a same-gender doctor. This is especially true for many women, who may feel uncomfortable having a male doctor conduct visual and digital exams. At Los Angeles Colon & Rectal Surgical Associates, we have a female colorectal surgeon on staff. When you call to make an appointment, make sure you let them know you prefer a female doctor, and we can make that happen.

What Will Happen During the Visit?

Your doctor will spend time talking with you. You will be able to tell your doctor exactly what you are experiencing, when it began and how it presents. You will be asked a series of questions about all aspects of your health and many specific questions about your problem. Your answers will be held in complete confidentiality. Your answers will usually give your proctologist a strong idea as to the nature of your problem.

After taking your history and discussing your symptoms, it is time for the doctor to conduct an examination. A nurse will take you into an exam room and help you lie down on your left side, in a comfortable manner.

The doctor will first look at your anal area, looking for any abnormalities, protrusions, or painful areas. The doctor will then perform some or all of the exams:

Visual Exam

Before doing anything else, the doctor will look at your anus without inserting any type of scope. This may be enough to diagnose a fistula, an external hemorrhoid, or an anal fissure.

Digital Exam

A digital exam will be performed (unless the area is too tender to permit an exam). The doctor will insert a finger into your rectum to assess the tone of your anal sphincter (muscle), and check for any lumps or masses in your anus and rectum.

Anoscope Exam

The doctor may then insert a small anoscope. This will allow a visualization of the anal area to look for hemorrhoids or other conditions affecting the anus.

Proctoscope Exam

A proctoscopy may be performed, whereby the proctologists place a scope (a hollow tube with a light at the end) into the rectum to look at the lining of the rectum and anus.

Once your doctor has a good idea about what is going on, they can create a plan to treat your condition based on their medical training, experience, and your unique needs. We can treat anything from an irritating external hemorrhoid to colorectal cancer. Our practice pairs extensive experience—50 years of combined experience — with cutting-edge colorectal treatments including robotics and advanced laparoscopic procedures. We will work with you to find the right treatment plan for you while also building a proactive plan to reduce your risk of future problems.

What If I Need a Colonoscopy?

The most common reason people over the age of 50 see a proctologist is for preventative care. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that adults with an average risk of colon cancer begin colorectal cancer screenings at age 50. The American Cancer Society moves this date up by five years, recommending a colonoscopy or other testing every ten years after age 45.

Average risk means you do not have:

  • A personal history of colon cancer, or other cancers that required radiation to the abdomen
  • A personal history of dangerous polyps
  • A personal history of an inflammatory bowel disease
  • A family history of colon cancer
  • Other confirmed genetic risk factors for colorectal cancer

Colonoscopies are routine, and most people find the preparation worse than the test itself. In general, you can expect to:

  • Drink a colonoscopy prep drink the night before
  • Not be able to eat the morning of the test
  • Have someone else drive you to the test
  • Have sedation that allows you to relax during the procedure
  • Experience minimal to no discomfort during the procedure
  • Get your preliminary results in the recovery room
  • Feel groggy for the rest of the day

Return to work and your regular routine the following day. While you will get preliminary results following your colonoscopy, your doctor will follow up with you in a few days if they removed in polyps or had other concerns. If they removed any type of growth during the screening, they will send it to pathology for evaluation and will review it with you when they have the results.

There Is No Reason to Worry About Your Appointment With Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates

When seeing the proctologist, the best thing you can do is to try your best to relax. Most patients report the dread and anxiety is much worse than the visit itself. Once you get to the office, your examination will be over before you know it. You will leave with the answers you needed, and perhaps with relief from a medical condition you have let interfere with your everyday life for too long.

If you have been putting off seeing a doctor for a lingering hemorrhoid, blood in your stool, or a regular colonoscopy, you have a lot to gain from an appointment with a proctologist. Getting the answers you need during a quick doctor’s visit is well worth the time it takes and it isn’t as bad as you think it will be. In Los Angeles, call us today at (310) 273-2310 to learn more or make your appointment to see one of our proctologists.

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