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Sigmoidoscopy (Flexible Sigmoidoscopy)

The Sigmoidoscopy Preparation And Procedure

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Preparation for a Sigmoidoscopy

In order to obtain accurate results, the rectum and the lower colon must be completely clean of stool. Your doctor will give you detailed instructions on how to cleanse your colon. In general, this requires the use of one or two enemas prior to the procedure and may also call for a laxative and some dietary modifications. Under special circumstances, such as the presence of significant diarrhea, the preparation may be waived..

The Sigmoidoscopy Procedure

During a Sigmoidoscopy, a thin flexible lighted tube about two feet long (a sigmoidoscope) that the doctor can see through is carefully inserted into the anus. 

  • The sigmoidoscope goes up into the sigmoid colon (the rectum and the lower part of the colon). 
  • The tube may also have a tool to remove polyps or tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
  • Air is blown gently into the intestinal tract so the doctor can see the intestinal lining more clearly.

The following image of a sigmoidoscopy is courtesy of the National Cancer Institute:


Sigmoidoscopy; shows sigmoidoscope inserted through the anus and rectum and into the sigmoid colon.  Inset shows patient on table having a sigmoidoscopy. offsite link

  • A sigmoidoscopy may be uncomfortable when air is blown into the intestinal tract because sedation is usually not used for the procedure.
  • You may feel cramping during the procedure and be bloated afterwards until the air is expelled. .For information about what happens during the procedure and recovery, click here.

If polyps are present: 

  • They can be removed through a sigmoidoscope. Samples can be biopsied for study by a pathologist.
  • A colonoscopy is usually needed to find out if there are additional polyps or cancer further in the colon. To learn about a colonoscopy, click here.

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