Working as a proctologist means that talking about your day at a party might make people a little nervous. It also means that you provide critical care for patients with serious and sometimes life-threatening conditions. Doctors with this medical specialty treat body parts and issues that people often feel uncomfortable discussing, so proctology is a good fit for candidates who are not only passionate about medicine but compassionate too.
A proctologist, now more commonly called a colorectal surgeon, specializes in treating diseases of the colon, rectum and anus.
By definition, a proctologist treats illnesses of the colon, rectum and anus. While the term is still widely used and understood, it's also considered outdated by members of the medical community. Today, these doctors are often called coloproctologists, colorectal surgeons or colon and rectal surgeons.
Doctors who specialize in this field screen for, diagnose and treat a wide range of issues. Sometimes they perform colonoscopies (a procedure that allows the doctor to see the inside of the colon), although gastroenterologists – who specialize in diseases of the digestive tract – also do these tests. Proctologists also treat issues including hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, changes in bowel movements, bowel conditions and colorectal cancers. They are trained to perform surgeries on the colon, rectum and anus. For instance, a colorectal surgeon may remove part of the colon in a patient with colorectal cancer.
Becoming a proctologist typically requires about a decade of medical education. Candidates must first graduate from an accredited medical school, then complete around six years of training in surgery and colorectal diseases. Colorectal surgeons in the United States are certified by the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery before they're allowed to practice.
Colorectal surgeons work in hospitals and in private practice. Typically, their offices typically operate like those of other medical specialists: supported by nurses and medical assistants, they see patients for in-office appointments and perform scheduled procedures. Some colorectal surgeons may be on call during night and weekend hours, but these specialists tend to have predictable (albeit long) hours.
Years of Experience and Salary
The average proctologist salary is generous. In 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median salary of $208,000 for physicians and surgeons. (Median means that half earned more than that amount and half earned less.) But other estimates indicate that colorectal specialists can expect to earn larger salaries than the average doctor. In 2015, colorectal surgeons using Doximity (a social networking site for physicians) reported an average annual salary of $343,277. As you progress in your career and gain more experience and expertise, your salary may exceed that amount.
Job Growth Trend
The BLS predicts a 13 percent growth rate for all physicians and surgeons between 2016 and 2026. The need for colorectal surgeons is unlikely to decrease in the coming years. In fact, a 2017 study by the American Cancer Society found that rates of colon and rectal cancers are on the rise in young adults and those in mid life, so these doctors are very much in demand.