Flexible Sigmoidoscopy


My quarterly checkups are either a PET Scan or a scope test called a “Flexible Sigmoidoscopy”.    As the name implies, the scope neck is flexible.  There is also a rigid scope, but I don’t think it’s commonly used.

This test does not require a full bowel prep like a colonoscopy does.  The reason for this is because the scope, unlike the one for colonoscopies, does not travel through the entire colon.  It only goes up as far as the sigmoid, hence the procedure name.  Here’s a diagram of our anatomy so that you can see the differentiation . . .

 Anal rectal sigmoid canal


The scope is about 1/2″ in diameter and has a tiny camera on the end of it, which allows the physician to look for any polyps or visible abnormalities.  Below is a photo of what the sigmoidoscope looks like.  I don’t know about you, but I think it looks intimidating.   Something like THAT just doesn’t belong IN THERE.

 flex sigmoidoscope


Prep for this procedure varies at different facilities.  You may be instructed to have only clear liquids  or light meals the day before.   As mentioned above, a full bowel prep is not required.  You might be instructed to take a laxative the night before and an enema upon arriving at the hospital.   My physician instructed me to eat light meals the day before with no intake of red dyes, and then on the morning of the procedure, about an hour before leaving for the hospital, do an enema at home.    I would be given another one after arriving at the hospital.

This was problematic for me.

The radiation damaged my sphincter muscle.   I found that it is almost impossible for me to hold an enema.   When being instructed to do the enema, I thought that I might have trouble, so I decided that I should do a “trial run” the night before the procedure.    A Fleets enema is 4.5 ounces.   The volume of my booty is apparently about   O N E    O U N C E.   After that amount of fluid, the solution spilled out, ran down my leg and on to the bathroom floor.   Yeh, it was a sight I’m sure.   And, what I was able to hold, I could only retain it for … ummm … maybe 30 seconds.   So, I tried again.   Same thing.   It was frustrating, to say the least.   On the morning of my scope, I told my nurse about my problems with the prep.  Although she was sympathetic, she told me that she would have to tell the physician because, with an incomplete prep, he may not be able to complete the procedure.     He ordered two more enemas.  Wonderful.  Anxiety increased in intensity.  As my nurse, although very kind and compassionate, had to give them to me before my procedure, I was humiliated.   Bless that woman’s heart because I certainly would not have wanted to do what she did.  Oh and bless the surgeon’s heart …… he ordered two MORE.   I did those by myself.   Maybe she’d seen enough?   Without going into any further detail, I had parts of SEVEN ENEMAS by procedure time.  I had to have “clear liquid” (no solid stool) before I could quit.

When I was taken to the OR, I was bleeding and exhausted from the anxiety of it all.  I was in tears because I knew that I didn’t have a good prep and that the procedure could be compromised.  Plus, my butt hurt.  It was really, really sore.

In retrospect, I have decided that when I have another flex sigmoid, I will do a full bowel prep the day before.  It’s not required, but with the changes that have occurred in my body, I “NEED” to do it.   I simply cannot risk the procedure being aborted … and risk  something being missed as a result.  I need to have a complete prep so my doctor can do a complete scoping.

Upon awakening, I learned that although the physician indeed had to stop the procedure because of solid stool.   But what he WAS able to look at, that part was clear of polyps and abnormalities.   So, for that I am very thankful.

When I was getting dressed, I noticed that the pad I’d been lying on was partially soaked with blood and fluid.     Apparently it is normal.   So, if you should see a similar sight, do not be alarmed.

pad after flex sigmoid

It was now behind me ….. I was happy about that …… and in 6 months I’ll do it again …..

only I will be better PREPared.





“Don’t be afraid; Just believe” — Mark 5:36b

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