Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure used to see inside the sigmoid colon and rectum. Flexible sigmoidoscopy can detect inflamed tissue, abnormal growths, and ulcers. The procedure is used to look for early signs of colon cancer and to help your doctor diagnose unexplained changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, bleeding from the anus, and weight loss.
What to Expect
Knowing what to expect can help take the stress out of any procedure. Here’s what you can expect with the flexible sigmoidoscopy procedure.
During the test the patient is positioned on the left side with knees drawn up toward the chest. First, the doctor will do a digital rectal exam by gently inserting a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum to check for any abnormalities.
Next, the sigmoidoscope is inserted into the rectum, and the patient will feel some pressure. Air is gently introduced through the scope to expand the colon and help the doctor see well. The doctor then moves the scope as far as needed to examine the lower colon. As the scope is slowly removed, the lining of the bowel is carefully examined. A hollow channel in the center of the scope allows for the passage of forceps for taking a biopsy if needed.
How to Prepare
Proper preparation is necessary before a flexible sigmoidoscopy. The colon and rectum must be completely empty for flexible sigmoidoscopy to be thorough and safe. Some doctors recommend a combination of a laxative and a small enema before the test. You may also be instructed to follow a liquid diet for 12-24 hours before the procedure is scheduled. A liquid diet means clear, fat-free bouillon or broth, gelatin, strained fruit juice (no grape juice or any liquid with red color), water, plain and unsweetened coffee or tea, or diet soda. The night before, or immediately before your procedure, you may be given an enema, which is a liquid solution that washes out the lower intestine.
Learn more about colon cancer prevention, including colon cancer symptoms, risk factors, and more.