Family doctors can treat people of all ages, from infants to the elderly. They are usually turned to first as an individual’s primary care physician, administering regular check-ups and treating minor illnesses. Most family doctors do not specialize in one part of the body over another, but rather they hold a wide range of knowledge about general health and disease prevention. In addition, family medicine is a field of medical study that focuses on members of a family as a group. Seeing a family doctor often creates a sense of community and comfort that may be lacking between patients and medical experts in a more specific field.
When a patient of a family doctor develops a more serious condition, the family doctor will often refer the patient to a specialist, such as a radiologist for medical imaging services or a colorectal surgeon for the removal of abnormalities detected during a routine physical. In the event that a family doctor detects rectal polyps during a routine digital rectal exam—a family doctor may refer his or her patient to a gastroenterologist for more relevant treatment.
Although most family doctors or internal medicine doctors prefer to let a more specialized professionals handle their patients’ colonoscopy procedures, there have been studies that suggest that family doctors are qualified to perform colonoscopy procedures. In a 2009 paper entitled “Primary Care Physicians: A Meta-Analysis,” published in the Annals of Family Medicine, medical experts Thad Wilkins, M.D. from the Medical College of Georgia and his fellow researchers concluded that general practitioners were qualified to perform colonoscopy if they have met the minimum training requirements.
Regardless, extra precautions should be taken if you’d like your family doctor to perform your colonoscopy—since it’s not widely practiced. The topic is debated often in medical circles. Make sure you contact a medical specialist before your screening or get a second opinion to ensure that the colonoscopy procedure be administered safely and efficiently.
Patients with mild colon issues including hemorrhoids or constipation are often handled by a general practitioner. However, if the doctors feel that the patient’s case is more severe, the patient will be referred to a gastroenterologist for further review and to consider possible surgical procedures. Understanding the symptoms of colon related diseases can make a discussion with your specialist will give you a better grasp of what is expected from you as a patient and of the kinds of colon questions your doctor might be able to answer. It is also always a good idea to retain a second opinion before going forward with a colonoscopy or other colon-related procedures. In addition, you may want to consider working out a payment plan with your doctor to ease the financial stress of scheduling regular screenings. If you have any pressing colon questions or concerns, feel free to contact a colon doctor today and find out about the best treatments for your medical situation.
Reviewed 12/12/2011 by David M. Nolan, M.D.
Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, 2011
Currently a Fellow of Gastroenterology, at UCI 2011-2014