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About the procedure
The small and large intestine complete digestion started in the mouth and stomach. The small intestine draws nutrients from the food that passes through it and then passes the remains into the colon. This waste is stored in the colon, which is three to six feet long, until the body eliminates it.
Because the colon bends and turns, it is difficult to examine. To get a clear picture of the lower part of the colon, doctors use a sigmoidoscope, a thin, lighted, flexible instrument that allows the doctor to inspect inside the rectum and lower portion of the colon, called the descending colon and sigmoid colon.
A longer instrument, called a colonoscope, is used to examine the entire large intestine. It is thinner and more flexible than the sigmoidoscope. An examination using it, called a colonoscopy, takes approximately 15 minutes.
At the end of both instruments a fiberoptic lens or video camera allows the doctor to see every crook of the large intestine. Each instrument also allows the doctor to remove polyps and tissue samples and to diagnose growths and confirm the findings of other tests.