When you first meet with your Consultant Gastroenterologist in Croydon at Shirley Oaks, they will take your medical history and ask you about your symptoms. They will want to know:
- What symptoms you have
- How long you’ve had these symptoms
- Whether your symptoms have been getting more noticeable/severe over time
- Whether any particular foods, drinks or activities make your symptoms worse
- How your symptoms are affecting daily life
- Whether you are worried about any specific things (for example, has a change in bowel habits made you worry that you have bowel cancer?)
A physical examination may also be carried out during the consultation.
It may be that a diagnosis can be made at this stage, or that your symptoms are nothing to be concerned about. For other symptoms, you may be referred for further tests to investigate specific parts of functions of your digestive system.
One of the most helpful tools when investigating problems within of the digestive system is endoscopy. An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube with a camera and light at one end. The camera transmits a real time image to a video screen
Depending on your symptoms, you may need to have a Gastroscopy, a Colonoscopy or an Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). If needed, these will all be arranged for you at Shirley Oaks at the earliest opportunity.
- A gastroscopy investigates symptoms in the upper part of the GI tract. The endoscope is introduced into the body through the mouth and then moved down the oesophagus (food pipe), to the stomach and then into the first part of the small intestine (duodenum).
- A colonoscopy investigates symptoms in the lower part of the GI tract. The endoscope is inserted into the rectum and then moved along the large intestine and into the lower part of the small intestine (ileum).
- An ERCP is used to investigate symptoms possibly being caused by a problem in the liver, pancreas, gall bladder or bile ducts. The endoscope is inserted through the mouth and moved into the stomach. A special dye is then injected which shows up on X-ray. An ERCP can be used to treat some conditions. For example, if a bile duct is found to be narrowed or blocked, a stent may be inserted to open it up again. If gallstones are discovered in the bile duct, these can often be removed.
During any of these endoscopic investigations, your Consultant will look for any abnormalities or areas of possible concern, such as small lumps or any narrowing in the GI tract. If needed, a biopsy (small sample of tissue) may be taken and sent away for further analysis.
While not painful, these investigations can be uncomfortable, so you will normally be offered sedation or gas & air (nitrous oxide) to help make things more comfortable for you.
Additional tests, including blood tests, liver function tests, MRI scan, CT scan and ultrasound, are all available on-site at Shirley Oaks, so are easily arranged if needed.
Once any investigations have been carried out, your Consultant will discuss suitable treatment options with you so that you can make an informed choice about treatment. If you have any questions or concerns at any stage, they will be very happy to talk these through with you.
If you need to be referred to another specialist (for example, if bowel cancer is discovered you will be referred to the Oncology team) this will be done without delay.