Colorectal Surgeon vs. Gastroenterologist

Medically reviewed by: Gary H. Hoffman, MD

Many patients often do not know if they need to see a Colon and Rectal Surgeon or a Gastroenterologist for their symptoms or condition. Moreover, even more are confused as to the difference between a Colon and Rectal Surgeon and a Gastroenterologist. The differences between the two specialties can be quite large.

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Because we treat many patients who believe they needed a Gastroenterologist when in fact they need a Colon and Rectal Surgeon, we have decided to explain the differences and correct a few misconceptions.

What is a Colon and Rectal Surgeon?

A Colon and Rectal Surgeon is a General Surgeon who has undertaken further training in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus. The term Proctologist is an older term for a Colon and Rectal Surgeon.

Colorectal surgeons commonly treat conditions such as rectal cancer or colon cancer, hemorrhoids, anal fissures, diverticulitis, and infections of the anus. When medical treatment is unsuccessful, the surgeon will perform the appropriate test or operation, such as a colonoscopy, colectomy or colon resection, a proctectomy or rectal removal, or a hemorrhoidectomy.

Importantly, to look at the lining of the colon, a Colon and Rectal Surgeon will perform a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is instrumental in helping to prevent colon cancer by removing precancerous colon polyps. Polyps are overgrowths of the lining of the colon or rectum. If left in place, polyps can become malignant.

What is a Gastroenterologist?

A Gastroenterologist is a doctor who has completed training in general internal medicine and has completed further training in gastroenterology or disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. Gastroenterologists diagnose and treat problems affecting any part of the digestive tract. The digestive tract includes the gallbladder, small intestine, colon, pancreas, stomach, and liver.

What is the difference between a Colon and Rectal Surgeon, and a Gastroenterologist?

Although there are some similarities between colon rectal surgery and gastroenterology, the differences are extremely important. In a nutshell, Surgeons do everything a Gastroenterologist does, but more. For example, a Surgeon will repair or correct your condition or symptoms, whereas a Gastroenterologist must refer you to a surgeon. Lastly, Surgeons operate and Gastroenterologists do not – although, surgery is a last-resort option and we instead prefer to defer to less invasive options.

About Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates

Gary H. Hoffman M.D., Eiman Firoozmand M.D., Liza M. Capiendo M.D. and Stephen Yoo M.D. specialize in colon and rectal surgery and general surgery. Although many of their patients are from countries around the world and all areas of California and Southern California, most patients are from Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Culver City, the Valley, South Bay, Santa Monica, as well as outlying areas such as Lancaster, Bakersfield, Fresno and San Diego.

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