Digestive System Home > Alternatives to Colonoscopy

Barium Enema
A barium enema is a procedure that allows your doctor to assess the lining of your rectum and colon using x-rays. To have a barium enema, you will first undergo a bowel prep similar to the one used for colonoscopy. On the day of your examination, a tube is gently placed into your rectum, and barium liquid is slowly pumped into your colon. The barium liquid coats your colon and rectum so that it shows up clearly on the x-ray.
This is a good way to look for disease and any narrowed areas or large tumors, but it may miss small polyps, cancers, or inflammation. If a problem is found, a colonoscopy may still be required. A perforation or a tear in the lining of the intestine occurs in about one out of every 25,000 barium enemas.
Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
Flexible sigmoidoscopy is an examination similar to a colonoscopy. However, it only examines the last third of the colon and rectum; the colonoscopy examines the entire colon. It can be used in patients having minor symptoms or as a screening for cancer. However, it may also need to be followed up with a colonoscopy.

What If I Decide to Do Nothing?

Even if your doctor recommends a colonoscopy, it is always your choice to have or not to have one. It is important to understand the possible consequences involved with this decision.
If you decline the procedure, you are limiting your doctor's ability to obtain key information about your condition. In your doctor's opinion, this information is necessary to develop the best treatment plan for your symptoms.
However, the final decision to have or not to have a colonoscopy rests with you. All concerns relating to this decision should be discussed with your doctor at length. Then, you and your doctor can discuss your individual situation and come up with a treatment method that is comfortable for you.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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