Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a routine outpatient procedure in which the inner lining of the lower large intestine is examined. Flexible sigmoidoscopy is commonly used to evaluate gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or changes in bowel habits. It is also performed to screen people older than age 50 for colon and rectal cancer.
During the procedure, a doctor uses a sigmoidoscope, a long, flexible, tubular instrument about 1/2 inch in diameter, to view the lining of the rectum and the lower third of the colon (the sigmoid colon).
Cancer that starts in your colon can sometimes spread to other parts of your body, including the liver. Another name for this cancer is metastatic, or stage IV, colon cancer.
Your doctor might find that the cancer has spread to your liver when he first diagnoses you with colon cancer. Or after you've been treated, the colon cancer can come back and spread to the liver. About half of people with colorectal cancer will develop cancer that has spread.
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Do I Have to Stop Eating and Drinking Before a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?
There are no diet or fluid restrictions before a flexible sigmoidoscopy. But, your bowel must be cleansed in order for sigmoidoscopy to be successful. You will receive two enemas before the procedure since the rectum and lower intestine must be empty so that the intestinal walls can be seen. You will need to try to hold the enema solution for at least five minutes before releasing it.
How Is a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Performed?
A flexible sigmoidoscopy is performed by a doctor experienced in the procedure, and usually lasts from 10 minutes to 20 minutes. No sedation is required. Your doctor will have you lie on your left side, with your knees drawn up. The sigmoidoscope, a flexible tube with a camera on the end, is inserted through the rectum and passes slowly into the sigmoid colon. A small amount of air is used to expand the colon so the doctor can see the colon walls. You may feel mild cramping during the procedure. You can reduce the cramping by taking several slow, deep breaths during the procedure. When the doctor has finished, the sigmoidoscope is slowly withdrawn while the lining of your bowel is carefully examined.