The Lancet medical journal of April 2010, reports that a single sigmoidoscopy exam in adults between the ages of 55 and 64 years, and removal of any polyp seen, reduces the chances of developing cancer of the colon by up to a third and death from colon cancer by over 43%.
After a very extensive study in 170,432 eligible men and women in 14 different health facilities in the UK, the research concluded that " Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a safe and practical test and, when offered only once between ages 55 and 64 years, confers a substantial and longlasting benefit."
Why is this important? Colon cancer is the third most frequently diagnosed cancer in the world, with over 1 million new cases reported every year and over 600,000people dying from this type of cancer yearly.
66% of all cancer of the colon occurs in the rectum, sigmoid colon, descending colon and splenic flexure; areas of the large intestine accessible and covered during a routine sigmoidoscopy.
What that means is that a quick, relatively less painful and less invasive procedure like flexible sigmoidoscopy, compared with colonoscopy, has the potential to reach and identify over 2/3rd of all possible large bowel cancer.
A sigmoidoscopy is a type of camera test or endoscopy that examines the inside of your rectum and the left lower part of your large intestine or colon, using an instrument called a sigmoidoscope.
A sigmoidoscope is a special, long, pen sized tube with a magnifying glass, telescope, camera and light source attached to its tip, with which you can see the inside of the lumen of the left side of the large intestine, from the rectum up to the part of the colon under your left rib cage called the splenic flexure.
Your primary care doctor usually performs a sigmoidoscopy. In some places, a specialist doctor, an endoscopist does it.
During a sigmoidoscopy, the doctor gently guides a tube with a camera on the end through your anus and up through the rectum and lower third of your large intestine. The doctor uses the special camera that is attached to the sigmoidoscope to examine and take pictures of the inside of your rectum and lower portion of the colon.
There are two types of sigmoidoscopies:
The difference is the tool your doctor selects to perform the procedure.
Doctors use the flexible sigmoidoscope more often, because the flexible sigmoidoscope allows the doctor to view more of the lower colon, and it is more comfortable for the patient.
There are several reasons why your doctor may order a sigmoidoscopy, or why a sigmoidoscopy is done on someone. It could be because of:
Often, doing a colonoscopy is more thorough and far reaching than having a sigmoidoscopy. Sigmoidoscopy however does not always require sedation, you do not really have to clear the bowel as much as is needed with colonoscopy and it is quicker to perform.
Whether you are having a flexible or rigid sigmoidoscopy, the process is similar.
During a sigmoidoscopy, your doctor will also be able to take tissue samples, or biopsies. If you have growths in the colon, called polyps, they can be removed and microscopically examined for signs of malignancy.
The sigmoidoscopy takes 10 to 15 minutes, but can possibly last longer if the doctor removes tissue. Pain medication and sedation are not usually necessary.
Preparing for a sigmoidoscopy procedure is easy. Though details vary from one clinic or hospital to another, it is basically the same principle. Be sure to read through and follow the local instruction given to you by your attending physician.
Depending upon your age and your risk factors, your doctor might recommend a routine sigmoidoscopy procedure every three to five years. Your doctor will follow guidelines that are based upon evidence that has shown that there is a benefit in terms of mortality and morbidity, or prevention of death and disease, by having a sigmoidoscopy performed.
Sigmoidoscopy procedure or exam is a relatively very safe test, especially in an experienced hand.
Very very rarely, there could be complications due to:
It must be emphasized that any and all of these complications are very very rare.
After the sigmoidoscopy, call the doctor if you have:
• Heavy rectal bleeding
• Severe abdominal pain
• Fever or feel unwell in any way.
During a sigmoidoscopy, the doctor will evaluate the lining of the colon. If the lining of your colon appears smooth and pink with regular folds, your colon is normal.
Abnormal results include:
Depending on the results, you may need additional testing such as a colonoscopy or further examination through another sigmoidoscopy.
Do you have a great sigmoidoscopy story? Or are you due to have a sigmoidoscopy soon and looking for answers to a specific question relating to the sigmoidoscopy procedure? Or perhaps just had this test and looking for help with some symptoms or interpretation of your result? Post your concerns or comments here. We would really love to hear from you!
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