What is it?

In this exam, your doctor uses an instrument called a "flexible sigmoidoscope" (say: sig-moy-do-scope) to look for problems in your rectum and lower colon. The rectum and lower colon are parts of the large intestine, or bowel.

The sigmoidoscope is a long, thin tube with a tiny camera on the end. The tube is put into the anus (the opening to the bowel) and moved slowly into the colon. A light at the tip of the scope lets your doctor see the walls of the bowel. Your doctor will look for changes on the bowel wall that may be caused by a disease, a cancer or a condition that might turn into cancer. Your doctor can also use this tube to look for the cause of bleeding and pain.

Why should I have this exam?

Flexible sigmoidoscopy can help your doctor find cancer or pre-cancer early enough  to treat. If you have a family history of colon problems or if you have pain in your belly or rectal bleeding, your doctor may want you to have flexible sigmoidoscopy.

How do I get ready for this exam?

Before the exam, you need to empty your lower colon and rectum of stool. Your doctor will tell you how to clean out your bowel with enemas and liquid medicines. During this time, you can probably keep taking your regular medicines, but you need to tell your doctor if you're taking aspirin every day, or a blood thinner, or if you're allergic to any medicines.

What can I expect during flexible sigmoidoscopy?

You will be lying on your left side while the sigmoidoscope is advanced through the rectum and colon. As the instrument is withdrawn, the lining of the intestine is carefully examined. The exam usually lasts 5 to 15 minutes. A nurse and the doctor will be with you. It is necessary for the doctor to introduce a small amount of air into the colon to expand it, so that all portions of the lining can be seen well. During that time you may feel some discomfort from cramps in your belly. You may feel like you have to go to the bathroom. Your doctor may need to take a small tissue sample (called a biopsy specimen) from the wall of your bowel. This won't hurt.

What happens after the exam?

You should be able to return to your normal activities right after you leave the hospital. If a biopsy sample was taken, you may see a small amount of blood in your next stool. If you feel bloated or have cramps, you'll probably feel better after you pass gas.

Right after the exam, your doctor will be able to tell you what was seen through the scope. It may be several days before you find out what the biopsy sample showed. The biopsy sample has to be sent to the lab. Your doctor will call you to come back to the office to find out what the biopsy showed.

If you develop a fever or have a pain in your belly that gets worse after the exam, you should call your doctor right away. These might be signs of infection.

What can I do so I don't get colorectal cancer?

You can lower your risk of getting colorectal cancer by taking good care of yourself. The Cancer Society recommends that you do these things:

Exercise for 30 minutes every day.Eat a lot of high-fiber, low-fat foods, such as cereal and bran.Stop smoking, if you smoke.Limit alcohol intake.

If you have any questions that have not been answered, please discuss them with the endoscopy nurse or your physician before the examination begins.

 
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