Gastroenterology is a field of internal medicine concerned with the functioning of the gastroenterological tract and the liver. In particular, it examines such phenomena as food digestion, the absorption of nutrients and the removal of waste from the body.
A wide number of organs, glands and pathways fall under the domain of gastroenterology, including the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum. Also of concern are the pancreas, gall bladder, bile ducts and liver. While gastroeneterologists try and understand the healthy operation of these elements, they also study diseases and disorders affecting them, such as cancer, hepatitis, polyps, ulcers and pancreatitis.
Medical students moving into this field of specialization require extensive training, beginning with three years of internal medicine residency. After that, practitioners are placed in a gastroenterology-oriented fellowship for another two to three years, where they learn from nationally-recognized authorities. They receive particular training in a number of technological applications, including endoscopy, which uses light, flexible tubes equipped with cameras to examine the interior of the body.
One unique aspect of this field is that researchers and practitioners are often the same entities, meaning that those designing the experiments are also gauging their usefulness. Additionally, gastroenterologists often provide the highest-quality colonoscopy procedures, which can lead to speedier and accurate detection of dangerous polyps and cancer cells.