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Early detection and prevention of digestive diseases

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Digestive diseases are targeting populations with high risk factors, those with chronic diseases and other medical complications. According to the National Institute of Health and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, digestive diseases are the second leading cause of disability due to illness in The U.S., with more than 2 million Americans impaired to some degree. Digestive disorders account for more than 37 million physician office visits per year and are responsible for 8-9 percent of total U.S. mortality.

Consumers and physicians need to have an increased role in early detection, prevention, and follow up care for digestive diseases, or this upward trend will continue to debilitate thousands of people who don’t have access to education and awareness about digestive disorders.

Contributing factors associated with digestive disease can include smoking, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, family history, genetics, age or gender. All of these underlying issues pose a threat to a person’s chance of developing a digestive disorder and by opting for a more proactive approach to address these head on; we can help reinforce preventive measures that includes detection or treatment of early concerns such as obesity and colon cancer.

Obesity is a growing epidemic and some of the digestive disorders associated with obesity are GERD Symptoms, Barrett’s Esophagus, Esophageal Cancer, Gallbladder, Gallstones and others. We need to engage and communicate with obese or at-risk populations to help manage their weight. While is it misleading to assume that weight loss will alleviate one’s risk of a GI disease, or eliminate the symptoms, it is attainable that weight loss will help improve one’s overall health.

Colorectal Cancer screenings rates remain low. Colorectal cancer is the 3rd leading cancer killer in the United States and the 3rd most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women. Each year, 60,000 people die due to colorectal cancer. In addition, more than 200,000 hospitalizations per year are a result of primary diagnosis of colorectal cancer.

Screenings are the key to prevention and about 23 million Americans or 28% of people who should be screened, have never done so according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Patients need increased access to screening and physicians need to reinforce stronger referral patterns.

Physicians should be speaking to their patients about the importance of getting screened. All average risk Americans age 50 and older should undergo colorectal cancer screening with colonoscopy. African Americans should begin screening at age 45.

We also need to cultivate more open conversations with physicians and patients. According to the Heartland Center for Motility, functional GI disorders are among the most common chronic medical conditions and the least understood. Lack of awareness surrounding digestive motility disorders is a growing challenge facing families who are in need of support and medical direction.

More than 60 million Americans experience heartburn at least once a month and more than 15 million Americans experience heartburn symptoms each day. Many people are hesitant or shy to talk about these issues, in turn leaving them at risk for higher consequences.

To provide appropriate medical care for this population, we must adapt to evolving needs and understand consumer patterns.Patients are looking for multiple treatment modalities and a more integrated approach to care overall and for digestive disorders which includes both medical and surgical options.

A person with GERD for instance wants to know he or she can first try medical options such as lifestyle modifications, weight loss or improved eating habits before turning to surgical treatment. Physicians need to work through multiple service lines to promote their expertise to spread awareness and provide education management.

By promoting healthier discussions, taking a more proactive approach and building awareness and education, we can help manage digestive diseases.

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