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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

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What You Need to Know About Proctoscopy

Proctoscopy is an examination of the rectum using a special metal or plastic scope called a proctoscope. The rectum is the 8-inch muscular tube that connects the large intestine (colon) to the anus, the opening of the intestine that leads out of the body. Waste, or bowel movements, and gas pass out of the body through the anus.

Why Is Proctoscopy Done?

A proctoscopy may be performed to detect diseases of the rectum or anus, to evaluate abnormal results of a barium enema, or to look for causes of rectal bleeding. A proctoscopy also may be done to monitor the growth of polyps (benign growths on the lining of the intestine) or to check for a return of rectal cancer in people who have already had surgery to treat their cancer.

How Do I Prepare for Proctoscopy?

Before getting a proctoscopy, you will usually be asked to use an enema (medication inserted into the rectum in order to cleanse the bowel) the night before the procedure, or you may be given one in the office just before the test. Be sure to check with your doctor for specific instructions before your test.

What Happens on the Day of a Proctoscopy?

A proctoscopy usually is done in the doctor's office. You will be asked to remove your clothing below the waist and lie on your side on a table.

The doctor will gently insert a gloved finger into your anus to check for tenderness or blockage.

The lubricated proctoscope is then carefully inserted into the rectum. Air is gently pumped in to expand the rectum, and you may feel some fullness and a need to pass stool. The doctor also may use special instruments to remove growths or to take a sample of tissue -- called a biopsy -- for further testing. When the doctor finishes examining your rectum, he or she will gently withdraw the scope.

Most people do not require anesthesia for this procedure. You may feel some pressure or cramping while the scope is in place, but you should not feel any pain. It is not unusual to feel and hear some air escaping during this procedure. This is normal and expected, and you should not be embarrassed. If you continue to have cramps after the procedure, passing gas may help. Walking around the room after the test may help you to pass the gas. The proctoscopy test usually takes from 5 to 15 minutes.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on September 03, 2014

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