An anoscopy is a simple medical procedure that can help your doctor identify an abnormality in your gastrointestinal tract, notable in your anus and rectum.
To perform an anoscopy, your doctor will insert a device called an anoscope into your anus. This scope is typically made of plastic (disposable) or stainless steel (sterilizable). An anoscope allows your doctor to get a detailed look at the tissue within your anal-rectal areas.
An anoscopy can identify several conditions and diseases that can affect the lower part of your intestines. These include cancer, tears in the tissue called anal fissures, hemorrhoids (swollen veins around the anus and/or rectum), and rectal polyps.
If you are going to have an anoscopy, you’ll need to empty your bladder and bowels before the procedure. Emptying your bladder and bowels will make you more comfortable during the procedure. Your doctor may give you a laxative or enema to help you completely empty your bowels before the anoscopy is performed.
The anoscope is a rigid hollow tube. It is 3 to 5 inches long, and about 2 inches wide. The anoscope is equipped with a light and allows the doctor to examine the anus and rectum in detail.
Before the anoscope is inserted into your anus, you’ll be asked to remove your undergarments. Your doctor may request that you position yourself in the fetal position on a table, or bend forward over the table.
The doctor will then insert the anoscope, which is lubricated with K-Y Jelly (or similar product), into your lower gastrointestinal tract via your anus. While the anoscope is being inserted, the doctor may ask you to intensify your internal muscles and relax as you would when having a bowel movement. This eases the placement of the anoscope.
Once the exam is performed, the doctor gently withdraws the anoscope. Your doctor may decide to perform other procedures in conjunction with the anoscopy.
These can include:
- digital rectal exam (DRE): the DRE involves placing a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum via the anus. This is done to feel for irregularities inside your rectal area.
- biopsy: depending on the results of the other tests, your doctor may also want to take a small sample of tissue.
An anoscopy is usually a painless procedure, but you may feel pressure or an urge to have a bowel movement. If you have hemorrhoids, there may be a small amount of bleeding.
It’s important to relax and tell your doctor how you’re feeling. If a biopsy is taken, you may feel a slight pinch.
This is an outpatient procedure, which means that once it is done, you can go about your day. Your doctor can usually give you an idea of the results once the exam is complete.
An anoscopy can spot a number of problems, including:
An abscess is a deposit of pus that can cause swelling and other problems in the tissue around it. An abscess may be caused by the blockage of a gland, infection of a tear in the tissue called an anal fissure, a sexually transmitted infection, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Inflammatory bowel diseases include ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, characterized by inflammation of the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.
Anal fissures are tears in the tissue of the anus that can occur due to constipation, having hard, large bowel movements, long periods of diarrhea, or decreased blood flow. Anal fissures can also appear after childbirth or in people with Crohn’s disease. They can be found in people of all ages and are common in infants.
Hemorrhoids are swollen veins around the anus and rectum. The veins swell when they’re under extra pressure. Hemorrhoids are common in pregnant women and can also occur due to an infection or straining during a bowel movement. Swollen veins in your anus and rectal area can be painful and cause bleeding.
Polyps are growths that protrude from the lining of the rectum or colon. They’re usually benign, but some can be cancerous. Regular screenings can be very effective in preventing polyps from becoming a serious problem.
Cancer can appear in the lower digestive tract, including the anus and the rectum, but cancers in this area are uncommon (much more common further up the digestive tract and colon).
The results of your anoscopy will determine next steps. The test can help your doctor determine appropriate treatment for your condition, or the need for more testing.