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Sigmoidoscopy

Examination of the lower colon using a sigmoidoscope, inserted into the rectum. A sigmoidoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure in which a trained medical professional uses a flexible, narrow tube with a light and tiny camera on one end, called a sigmoidoscope or scope, to look inside your rectum and lower colon, also called the sigmoid colon and descending colon. Flexible sigmoidoscopy can show irritated or swollen tissue, ulcers, polyps, and cancer.

A flexible sigmoidoscopy can help a doctor find the cause of unexplained symptoms, such as

Doctors also use flexible sigmoidoscopy as a screening tool for colon polyps and colon and rectal cancer. Screening may find diseases at an early stage, when a doctor has a better chance of curing the disease...Read more about Sigmoidoscopy
NIH - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Comparison of two methods used in screening for colorectal cancer

Cancer in the large intestine (colon) and rectum is one of the most frequent cancers in developed countries. The disease develops from benign lesions over a time span of about 10 years. If the lesion has turned into cancer, the prognosis is far better if the disease is detected at an early stage. Screening and detection for early cancers and benign precursors may therefore reduce the number of deaths caused by this disease. Cancers and benign precursors may bleed, and the blood can be detected in the stool by specific tests, the so‐called faecal occult blood tests (FOBT). If the test is positive (that is blood is detected), the person will be offered a colonoscopy to find the source of bleeding. Unfortunately, FOBT fails to discover a considerable number of cancers and precursor lesions. Therefore, endoscopic examination of the rectum and lower large intestine (the sigmoid colon) has been advocated (called flexible sigmoidoscopy). Flexible sigmoidoscopy is performed with a flexible instrument inserted through the anus and introduced about 50 centimetres into the lower large intestine after cleansing with a small enema. This allows direct visual inspection of the interior wall of the intestine, and benign lesions and malignant tumours may be detected. Benign lesions may be removed in the same session without anaesthesia and without any discomfort for the patient, and a follow‐up colonoscopy may be offered.

Systematic review and meta-analysis of the evidence for flexible sigmoidoscopy as a screening method for the prevention of colorectal cancer

BACKGROUND: Colorectal cancer is a significant cause of death. Removal of precancerous adenomas, and early detection and treatment of cancer, has been shown to reduce the risk of death. The aim of this review and meta-analysis was to determine whether flexible sigmoidoscopy (FS) is an effective population screening method for reducing mortality from colorectal cancer.

Effect of flexible sigmoidoscopy-based screening on incidence and mortality of colorectal cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

BACKGROUND: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have yielded varying estimates of the benefit of flexible sigmoidoscopy (FS) screening for colorectal cancer (CRC). Our objective was to more precisely estimate the effect of FS-based screening on the incidence and mortality of CRC by performing a meta-analysis of published RCTs.

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Summaries for consumers

Comparison of two methods used in screening for colorectal cancer

Cancer in the large intestine (colon) and rectum is one of the most frequent cancers in developed countries. The disease develops from benign lesions over a time span of about 10 years. If the lesion has turned into cancer, the prognosis is far better if the disease is detected at an early stage. Screening and detection for early cancers and benign precursors may therefore reduce the number of deaths caused by this disease. Cancers and benign precursors may bleed, and the blood can be detected in the stool by specific tests, the so‐called faecal occult blood tests (FOBT). If the test is positive (that is blood is detected), the person will be offered a colonoscopy to find the source of bleeding. Unfortunately, FOBT fails to discover a considerable number of cancers and precursor lesions. Therefore, endoscopic examination of the rectum and lower large intestine (the sigmoid colon) has been advocated (called flexible sigmoidoscopy). Flexible sigmoidoscopy is performed with a flexible instrument inserted through the anus and introduced about 50 centimetres into the lower large intestine after cleansing with a small enema. This allows direct visual inspection of the interior wall of the intestine, and benign lesions and malignant tumours may be detected. Benign lesions may be removed in the same session without anaesthesia and without any discomfort for the patient, and a follow‐up colonoscopy may be offered.

Colorectal Cancer Screening (PDQ®): Patient Version

There are five types of tests that are used to screen for colorectal cancer: fecal occult blood test, sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy, and DNA stool test. Learn more about these and other tests in this expert-reviewed summary.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) to treat acute pain in adults

Acute pain is pain of recent onset and limited duration. Acute pain is associated with surgery, physical trauma (e.g. broken bones, burns and cuts) and medical procedures (e.g. venepuncture and sigmoidoscopy). Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a treatment to relieve pain by administering mild electrical currents to the body using electrode pads attached to the surface of the skin.

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More about Sigmoidoscopy

Photo of an adult

Also called: Proctosigmoidoscopy

Other terms to know:
Colon Polyp, Colonoscopy, Sigmoid Colon

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