Colon Conditions

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer forms in the colon or rectum and usually affects those who are age 50 or older.

There are several tests used to screen for colorectal cancer. One of the most effective is the colonoscopy, which is the only test that can detect polyps (or cancer) and remove polyps during the same exam. The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy recommends that everyone age 50 or older get screened for colorectal cancer. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or other risk factors, you may need to begin screening earlier.


Constipation is infrequent bowel movements (fewer than three a week) or difficult passage of stools and having lumpy or hard stools. Treatment for constipation depends in part on the underlying cause.

Crohn's Disease

Crohn’s disease is one of two types of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis is the other type). Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition that involves inflammation of the digestive tract. This can affect anywhere from the mouth to the anus but most commonly affects the end of the small intestine. Symptoms may vary depending on what part of the tract is inflamed. The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, but it is thought to be an overreaction of the immune system. Normally, the cells and proteins that make up the immune system protect from infection. In people with Crohn’s disease, the immune system mistakes food, bacteria, and other materials in the digestive tract for foreign or invading substances. As a result, the body sends white blood cells into the digestive tract, producing chronic inflammation.

Crohn’s disease may be detected during a physical exam, blood and stool tests, a CT scan, a colonoscopy, or a capsule endoscopy. There is currently no cure for Crohn's disease, but certain medications and procedures can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.


Diarrhea describes bowel movements (stools) that are loose and watery. Generally, it is not serious and typically lasts two to three days. Some people often have diarrhea as part of irritable bowel syndrome or other chronic diseases of the large intestines.

In most cases, the only treatment necessary for diarrhea is replacing lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration. However, avoiding caffeine and foods that are greasy, high in fiber, or sweet may lessen symptoms during the condition. If you experience prolonged diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, or vomiting that prevents you from drinking liquids to replace lost fluids, see our Montana Gastroenterology team immediately.

Fecal Incontinence

Fecal incontinence, or bowel incontinence, is the inability to control bowel movements. This causes feces to leak unexpectedly from the rectum. Those with fecal incontinence may only experience leakage occasionally while passing gas or experience a complete loss of bowel control.

While many shy away from talking to their doctor about this issue, treatments can improve fecal incontinence and your quality of life. Treatments for fecal incontinence may include medications, behavioral therapy, changes in diet, and/or surgery.


Hemorrhoids are swollen and inflamed veins in the anus and lower rectum from increased pressure on these veins. This may occur when straining during bowel movements or during pregnancy, among other similar circumstances. Hemorrhoids may be inside the rectum or under the skin around the anus. Symptoms include itching, discomfort, and bleeding.

The doctor will perform a physical exam to look for visible hemorrhoids. An additional exam may include a colonoscopy to rule out other causes of bleeding. At-home treatments may include a high fiber diet, drinking 6-8 cups of water or other nonalcoholic fluids each day, sitting in warm water for 10 minutes several times each day, exercising, not straining during bowel movements, and/or over-the-counter creams and suppositories. If these at-home treatments are ineffective, a medical procedure may be needed to relieve symptoms.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

IBD describes disorders that involve chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. There are two types of IBD: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Symptoms of both include diarrhea, fever and fatigue, abdominal pain and cramping, blood in your stool, reduced appetite, unintended weight loss.

Your doctor will check for IBD using blood and stool tests, a colonoscopy, an upper endoscopy, a capsule endoscopy, and/or imaging tests (x-ray, CT, MRI). If these tests detect either type of IBD, treatment may be a mixture of medications and supplements, nutritional support and diet changes, and surgery.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a group of symptoms that occur together, including pain or discomfort in your abdomen and changes in your bowel movement patterns. It is a disorder that occurs when your gastrointestinal (digestive) tract behaves in an abnormal way without evidence of damage due to a disease.

If a test is needed to diagnosis IBS, your doctor may perform a blood test, stool test, colonoscopy, or sigmoidoscopy. There is no current cure for IBS, but symptoms may be managed with changes in diet and nutrition, such as following a FODMAP diet. Certain medications may also manage IBS.

Rectal Bleeding

Rectal bleeding refers to any blood that passes from your anus. It can also refer to bleeding from your lower colon or rectum. Rectal bleeding may show up as blood in your stool, on the toilet paper, or in the toilet bowl. Blood that results from rectal bleeding is usually bright red in color, but occasionally can be dark maroon.

If you have rectal bleeding that lasts more than a day or two, or if the bleeding worries you, contact Montana Gastroenterology. Our team will discuss your condition, perform any necessary exams, and recommend a treatment path.

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is one of two types of inflammatory bowel disease (see also Crohn’s disease). It is a chronic condition in which the immune system mistakes food, bacteria, and other materials in the intestine for foreign or invading substances, resulting in inflammation and ulcers. These can cause abdominal pain and frequent emptying of the colon. The exact causes of ulcerative colitis is not known.

Diagnosing this condition may include referring to medical and family history and/or performing a physical exam, lab tests, a colonoscopy, and/or sigmoidoscopy. While there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, medications may reduce symptoms. A procedure to remove the colon may also be used to treat ulcerative colitis if needed.