Sigmoidoscopy is a medical procedure used to examine the lower part of the colon, specifically the sigmoid colon and rectum. It is a type of endoscopy that involves inserting a flexible tube called a sigmoidoscope into the rectum and advancing it through the sigmoid colon.

During a sigmoidoscopy, the patient is usually positioned on their left side with their knees bent. The sigmoidoscope, which has a light and a camera on its tip, is lubricated and gently inserted into the rectum. As the scope is slowly advanced, the doctor can visualize the lining of the sigmoid colon and rectum on a monitor.

Sigmoidoscopy can be performed as either a flexible sigmoidoscopy or a rigid sigmoidoscopy, depending on the type of instrument used. Flexible sigmoidoscopy is more common because it allows for better visualization and greater flexibility during the procedure.

The primary purpose of sigmoidoscopy is to detect abnormalities in the lower part of the colon, such as polyps (abnormal growths), inflamed tissue, ulcers, or signs of colorectal cancer. If any suspicious areas are found, the doctor can take tissue samples (biopsies) for further examination or remove small polyps during the procedure.

Sigmoidoscopy is typically performed without sedation, and the procedure itself usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes. It may cause some discomfort or a feeling of pressure as the scope is maneuvered through the colon. However, it is generally well-tolerated and does not require a lengthy recovery period.

Sigmoidoscopy is a valuable screening tool for colorectal cancer and is often recommended for individuals over the age of 50, or earlier for those at higher risk. It can help detect early-stage cancers or precancerous lesions in the lower part of the colon. However, it only examines a portion of the colon and does not evaluate the entire colon like a colonoscopy does. Therefore, a colonoscopy may be recommended if further evaluation of the entire colon is necessary.

As with any medical procedure, there are potential risks and complications associated with sigmoidoscopy, although they are rare. These may include bleeding, perforation of the colon, or adverse reactions to sedation (if used). It’s important to discuss the procedure, its risks, benefits, and alternatives with your healthcare provider before undergoing sigmoidoscopy.