Sigmoidoscopy is a procedure used to look at the lower colon and
rectum. This test can help find the source of belly pain, rectal bleeding, and changes in
bowel habits. Sigmoidoscopy is also used as part of the screening for colorectal cancer. It
is done using a sigmoidoscope. This is a flexible tube with a viewing lens and light.
If you’re 45 or older and at
average risk, the American Cancer Society advises that you start having regular
screening for colorectal cancer. A sigmoidoscopy is recommended every 5 years. Your
healthcare provider may also recommend other colon cancer screening methods such as
colonoscopy. Talk with your provider about colorectal screening. If a sigmoidoscopy
shows polyps, you may need a colonoscopy as the next step.
Here is how to get ready for the
Tell your healthcare provider
about any medicines you take. Also tell your provider about any health conditions
you may have.
Ask your healthcare provider
about the risks of the test. These include bleeding and bowel puncture.
Your rectum and colon must be
empty for the test. Follow the diet and bowel prep instructions. Otherwise the
test may need to be rescheduled.
During the test
Here is what to expect:
The test is done in the
healthcare provider’s office or in a hospital. You may wear a gown or a drape over
your lower body.
The procedure usually takes
10 to 20
The healthcare provider does
a digital rectal exam to check for anal and rectal problems. The rectum is
lubricated and the scope put in.
You may have a feeling
similar to needing to have a bowel movement. You may also feel pressure when air
is pumped into the colon This is done so that the healthcare provider can get a
better view. It’s expected that you will pass gas during the procedure.
After the test
Here is what to expect:
Usually you’ll discuss the
results with your healthcare provider right away, unless you’re having other
If tissue samples (biopsies)
were taken, ask when to call for the results.
Try to pass all the gas right
after the test. Otherwise you may have bloating and cramping.
After the test you can go
back to your normal eating and other activities.
When to call your healthcare provider
Call if you have any of the
following after the procedure:
Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Image reviewed by StayWell art team.
Date Last Reviewed:
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