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Sigmoidoscopy (Anoscopy, Proctoscopy)

How It Feels

An anoscopy, proctoscopy, and sigmoidoscopy examination can be embarrassing and uncomfortable. You may have cramping, a feeling of pressure or bloating, or feel a brief, sharp pain when the scope is moved forward or when air is blown into your colon. As the scope is moved up the colon, you may feel the need to have a bowel movement and pass gas. If you are having pain, tell your doctor.

The removal of tissue samples (biopsy) from the colon does not cause discomfort. A local anesthetic is used when a biopsy of the anal area is done. Your anus may be sore for a few days.

You may have mild gas pains and may need to pass some gas after the procedure. Walking may help relieve the gas pains.

If a biopsy was done or a polyp removed, you may have traces of blood in your stool for a few days.


There is very little risk of complications from having an anoscopy, proctoscopy, or sigmoidoscopy.

  • There is a slight chance of piercing the colon (perforation) or causing severe bleeding by damaging the wall of the colon. But these problems are rare.
  • There is also a slight chance of a colon infection (very rare).

Call your doctor immediately if you have:


Anoscopy, proctoscopy, and sigmoidoscopy tests allow your doctor to look at the inner lining of your anus and rectum and the lower part of the large intestine camera.gif (colon).

Your doctor should be able to discuss some of the findings with you immediately after the test. Lab results (such as from a biopsy) may take several days.

Anoscopy, proctoscopy, and sigmoidoscopy
  • The lining of the colon appears smooth and pink, with numerous folds.
  • No abnormal growths, pouches, bleeding, or inflammation is present.

Some of the more common abnormal findings include:


Your doctor will discuss any significant abnormal results with you in relation to your symptoms and past health.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • Stool in the colon or rectum.
  • The structure of the colon, such as a colon that has many turns.
  • A barium enema done within a week before sigmoidoscopy.
  • You have peritonitis, diverticulitis, toxic megacolon, or you have had recent bowel surgery.

What To Think About

  • Follow-up tests, such as colonoscopy, may be needed after sigmoidoscopy. A colonoscopy may also be needed to examine the upper section of the colon if growths were seen during sigmoidoscopy. To learn more, see the topic Colonoscopy.
  • In some cases, the sigmoidoscope may be attached to a video monitor and a recording device that lets your doctor see the inside of the colon and record the findings.
  • Experts recommend routine colon cancer testing for everyone age 50 and older who has normal risk for colon cancer. Your doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent testing if you have a higher risk for colon cancer. Talk to your doctor about when you should be tested.
  • Which screening test you choose depends on your risk, your preference, and your doctor. Talk to your doctor about what puts you at risk and what test is best for you.
Colon Cancer: Which Screening Test Should I Have?

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 07, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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