How to Become a Colorectal Surgeon

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Colorectal surgery is a medical discipline that deals with conditions of the colon and rectum. Colorectal surgeons are medical experts that specialize in the field and perform a variety of surgical procedures to treat a variety of conditions of the colorectal area.


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What does a colorectal surgeon do?

Colorectal surgeons (also called a proctologist) are concerned with treating patients that have conditions or diseases that affect the colon, rectum, and anus. They work with many different patients such as those suffering from chronic intestinal diseases and hemorrhoids. They run diagnostic tests such as colonoscopies to understand the condition and create a plan of treatment. They also perform a variety of surgical procedures such as repairing fissures, removing pre-cancerous polyps, bowel resections, and treating colon cancer. Other medical professionals often consult colorectal surgeons for assistance in diagnosing conditions.

What kind of training does a colorectal surgeon need?

Colorectal surgeons need to complete an undergraduate degree, medical school, and internships and residency. Medical school consists of intensive study of the human body and diseases and conditions and clinical rotations in all major medical disciplines. After medical school prospective colorectal surgeons must complete general surgery residency programs. The general surgery residency programs usually take 5 to 6 years to complete. Then prospective colorectal surgeons must complete specialized colorectal surgery programs that generally last for 1 to 2 years. All states require all surgeons to be licensed. Licensing requirements include graduating from an accredited medical school, completing residency programs, and passing a licensing examination. Most colorectal surgeons become board certified by the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery.

What are the prospects for a career as a colorectal surgeon?

Employment of all surgeons is expected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 14% from 2006 to 2016 (1).

Job prospects should be very good, especially for colorectal surgeons with specialties and extensive experience. Many job openings will stem from the need to replace colorectal surgeons that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do colorectal surgeons make?

As of November 2009, colorectal surgeons with 1 to 4 years experience earn average annual salaries between $137,344 and $230,596. Those with 5 to 9 years experience earn average annual salaries between $65,000 and $249,550 (2).

A career as a colorectal surgeon is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in caring for patients with colon and rectum conditions. Colorectal surgeons must have a solid understanding in diagnosing and treating a variety of colorectal conditions. They must be self-motivated and be able to endure the pressure and long hours of practice. Since the colorectal area is sensitive to most patients, they must be able to make them feel at ease when discussing conditions. They must have excellent communication skills because they interact with a variety of patients and other medical personnel. Colorectal surgeons must also be able to make quick decisions in emergency situations.

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