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To understand the nature of many disorders, physicians often “peek” through the openings such as the mouth, nose, throat, and anus. With technological advances it has become easier and less uncomfortable to insert highly sensitive instruments along these passages. The instruments are called by the name of the orifice that they enter. The name of the procedure ends in the suffix -scopy. For example, sigmoidoscopy means looking into the lower part of the bowel.

Some of these tests may be done by any physician; others are so sophisticated that only a specialist has the skill to do the test properly. These tests pose little danger, although some of them are uncomfortable. Many can be done in a doctor’s office and or on an outpatient basis in a hospital or special clinic, which does not require an overnight stay.

Colonoscopy is possible because of the development of fiber optics. Flexible glass fibers transmit light over great distances at any angle. If the fiberglass is enclosed in a telescopelike instrument, it can be passed into the lower bowel to examine the entire large intestine. Whereas the older sigmoidoscope is a rigid instrument, the colonoscope is flexible.

If you are being examined for anemia or bleeding from the large bowel and the cause has not been found, colonoscopy may be necessary. Sometimes small tumors that are seen on a barium enema X-ray can be removed through the instrument without the need for surgery. At other times, a barium X-ray may not reveal a tumor that is seen during colonoscopy. The test, which takes forty-five minutes to an hour and a half, requires that your bowel is cleared with special cleansing fluids, laxatives, and enemas beforehand. It is somewhat uncomfortable. Usually, a gastroenterologist or a surgeon specializing in diseases of the bowel will perform the test.


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