A sigmoidoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that lets your physician visualise inside your colon (sigmoid part) by using an endoscope with a light and camera attached to it. Usually, this procedure is done to take pieces of sigmoid tissue to check for any abnormality in cell shape or structure. This flexible tube is called sigmoidoscope and it helps your physician check for:
- Abnormal intestinal cells
Why Is Sigmoidoscopy Performed?
This procedure is performed when you present with following symptoms.
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in your bowel habits
- Unexplained weight loss
- Rectal bleeding
These symptoms can indicate various diseases of the colon, and a sigmoidoscopy might help determine the cause and make a definitive diagnosis of your symptoms. It is also a general tool to screen colon cancer. After the age of 50, you may need a sigmoidoscopic evaluation every five years if you have a positive family history of colon cancer.
How you prepare
To make sure the endoscopist has a clear view of your colon, it must be completely empty. Because of this, you will be asked to have an enema before the test. This is a fluid that is placed in your rectum to clear the last section of your bowel. It needs to be used at least one hour before your examination and you will usually need to go to the toilet within 15 minutes of using it. You must not eat or drink anything further until after your examination. You can administer this yourself, at home before attending the appointment.
Before sigmoidoscopy, tell your physician about any medical conditions or previous gut surgeries you have and all drugs and supplements you are taking.
What can you expect?
Your physician will review the results of the procedure. The results could be whether positive or negative.
Negative result: A negative result shows that the physician does not find any abnormal tissue in the colon. If you have a moderate risk of colon cancer like positive family history, your physician may recommend that you wait for five years before repeating the test.
Positive result: A positive result indicates an abnormal tissue or related findings in the sigmoid colon. Depending on the results, you may need additional tests, such as a colonoscopy, so that any abnormalities can be examined, biopsied or excised. Colonoscopy is a more detailed examination of your entire colon to detect other abnormalities.
Possible side effects
Some cramping or bloating is normal after this procedure. Call your healthcare provider immediately if you develop:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Bloody stool