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FAQ > Colon > What is the difference between a colonoscopy and a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

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What is the difference between a colonoscopy and a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

The flexible sigmoidoscope is two feet long and only reaches part of the colon. The colonoscope is six feet long and can be used to reach the very beginning of the colon and even to reach into the end of the small bowel. Because the colonoscope involves a deeper insertion into the bowel, patients are usually given heavy sedation so they will sleep through the exam. Flexible sigmoidoscopy is often done without sedation. The bowel preparation for a colonoscopy is usually done by drinking laxatives, while the bowel preparation for a flexible sigmoidoscopy may only involve the use of enemas. Since the entire colon is at risk for the development of polyps, cancers, and inflammatory bowel disease, colonoscopy is the more revealing diagnostic and therapeutic examination.