The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide
Diagnostic Tests - Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
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What is the test?

  • Sigmoidoscopy uses an endoscope to look inside the lower portion of the large intestine. The endoscope used for this test is about a half-inch wide and long enough to reach about two feet into the colon. A sigmoidoscopy can detect early cancers as well as polyps that could later become cancerous.

    Sigmoidoscopy is an effective screening test for colon cancer if you have the procedure done every five years starting at age 50. Alternatively, you might choose to have a colonoscopy every 10 years to screen for colon cancer. In either case, it's wise to have a fecal occult blood test in the years you don't have a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. A sigmoidoscopy is also useful for evaluating the cause of abdominal pain, blood in the stool, constipation, and diarrhea.

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