Sigmoidoscopy for Colorectal Cancer Screening
Sigmoidoscopy (SIG-moy-DAH-skuh-pee) enables the physician
to look at the inside of the large intestine from the rectum through the last
part of the colon, called the sigmoid colon. Physicians may use this procedure
to find the cause of diarrhea, abdominal pain, or constipation. They also use
sigmoidoscopy to look for early signs of colorectal cancer in the colon and
rectum. With sigmoidoscopy, the physician can see bleeding, inflammation,
abnormal growths, and ulcers.
For the procedure, you will lie on your left side on the
examining table. The physician will insert a short, flexible, lighted tube into
your rectum and slowly guide it into your colon. The tube is called a
sigmoidoscope (sig-MOY-duh-skope). The scope transmits an image of the inside
of the rectum and colon, so the physician can carefully examine the lining of
these organs. The scope also blows air into these organs, which inflates them
and helps the physician see better.
If anything unusual is in your rectum or colon, like a polyp
or inflamed tissue, the physician can remove a piece of it using instruments
inserted into the scope. The physician will send that piece of tissue (biopsy)
to the lab for testing.
Bleeding and puncture of the colon are possible
complications of sigmoidoscopy. However, such complications are uncommon.
Sigmoidoscopy takes 10 to 20 minutes. During the procedure,
you might feel pressure and slight cramping in your lower abdomen. You will
feel better afterwards when the air leaves your colon.
Preparation for a Sigmoidoscopy
The colon and rectum must be completely empty for
sigmoidoscopy to be thorough and safe, so the physician will probably tell you
to drink only clear liquids for 12 to 24 hours beforehand. A liquid diet means
fat-free bouillon or broth, Jell-OR, strained fruit juice, water,
plain coffee, plain tea, or diet soda. The night before or right before the
procedure, you may also be given an enema, which is a liquid solution that
washes out the intestines. Your physician may give you other special
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