A proctologist, more often referred to as a colorectal surgeon, is a medical professional who specializes in diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus. The word is a compound of two Greek words, proktos, for behind or rear quarters, and logy, for study. A proctologist sees a variety of conditions in the course of his or her practice, and also often works closely with urologists, who handle the urogenital tract in males and the urinary tract of women. In addition, a proctologist may work with an obstetrician/gynecologist to deal with specifically female issues or a gastroenterologist to deal with diseases of the gut.
The conditions that a proctologist treats are quite varied. Fecal incontinence caused by medical issues will be treated by a proctologist, as is severe constipation. In addition, cancers of the colon and rectum are the purview of a proctologist, as are fissures, fistulas, and hemorrhoids. In the case of a rectal prolapse, when the rectum turns itself inside out, a proctologist will step in to treat the condition and the underlying cause, if one can be identified. Often, a proctologist finds him or herself performing complex surgeries using highly advanced equipment to make the surgery as noninvasive as possible.
Usually, a proctologist is consulted when a patient needs surgery, or has a complex proctological condition with requires the attention of a professional. Basic problems like small hemorrhoids and mild constipation may be treated by a general practitioner. However, when it becomes apparent that more investigation of a problem is needed, or a patient requires specialized surgery, a general practitioner will refer the patient to a proctologist for high quality care. A referral ensures that the patient sees a professional about his or her issue, no matter how embarrassing it must feel, and that the problem is quickly and appropriately dealt with.
People who would like to seek out their own proctologist can take advantage of several professional organizations which are happy to assist patients with a referral. If you are interested in a career in colorectal surgery, start by taking lots of science and math in high school, and focusing on biology and anatomy in your undergraduate education. Try to attend a medical school with an excellent colorectal program, and plan on spending several years in a surgery residency learning the tricks of the trade.