Why You Need Endoscopy


Upper endoscopy is a medical gastroenterology procedure that inserts a flexible tube down your esophagus with a camera on the end. The gastro­entero­logist looks for polyps, gastro­­intestinal bleeding, or signs of erosion within the esopha­gus, stomach, or duodenum. Patients with Barrett’s esopha­gus should be enrolled in a surveil­lance program to look for signs of abnormal tissue (dysplasia) or cancer.

Warranted Over Time

The American College of Physicians (ACP) recommends that screening with upper endoscopy should not be regularly conducted in women of any age or in men under the age of 50 with heart­burn because the preva­lence of cancer is extremely low in this age range. For men over 50 years of age, upper endos­copy screening should be used when multiple risk factors for Barrett’s esophagus are seen such as obesity, tobacco use, or noctur­nal acid reflux.

Based on patient history, age and symptoms, an antacid (proton pump inhibitor) may first be prescribed. After a few weeks without resolution, diagnostic endos­copy can help determine the cause of persistent abdominal pain, vomiting, or bleeding.

Generally Painless Procedure

During the gastroenterology procedure, the endoscopist can biopsy suspicious areas or remove polyps. An endoscope can be retro­fitted with an ultra­sound probe to create special images of the wall of your esopha­gus or stomach. An endo­scopic ultra­sound may also help your doctor create images of hard-to-reach organs, such as your pancreas.

Pain could be a result of heartburn or gastroesphageal reflux disease (GERD). Gastrointestinal ulcers can develop from taking too many NSAIDs over a period of time. Treatment can include dietary modifica­tion such as elimination of caffeine and spicy foods. Alternative prescrip­tions can neutralize stomach acids.

Your doctor will give you specific instruc­tions to prepare for your endoscopy. Despite mild sedation or local anesthetic, there is no thrill in taking time away from other activities to have some­one snake a tube down your throat. Depending on your insurance plan, it might even cost money you do not want to spend. Appreciate that the incon­venience will help prescribe the best course of treat­ment and possibly make you feel better.

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Kevin Williams is a health advocate and writer of hundreds of articles for multiple web­sites, including: A Bit More Healthy, KevinMD (WebMD), and Sue’s Nutrition Buzz. He is a prior 15-year con­sul­tant for Neutrogena Research and Scientific Affairs.

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