4 Important Things to Know about Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Doctors use flexible sigmoidoscopy to test the inner lining of the rectum and the lower part of the colon. It’s used to test patients for rectal cancer or colon cancer. The test can also be used to check for ulcers, abnormal cells, and polyps. Patients are usually given this test after complaining of rectal bleeding, abdominal pains, and alterations in bowel habits.

To perform the procedure, doctors use a sigmoidoscope, a long, flexible tube approximately half an inch in diameter. It has a light and a camera which are used to view the lining of the rectum.

Depending on your medical history or your family history of colorectal cancer, you will need to undergo flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years once you reach the age of 50.


Pros and Cons of Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Some of the benefits of flexible sigmoidoscopy:

  • Enables your doctor or nurse to look inside your bowels for signs of polyps or cancer.
  • Used as a component of screening and treating cancer.
  • If you require a sedative or anesthetic for the procedure is usually painless.
  • Whenever your doctor views polyps during the procedure, the doctor can remove them at the same time.

Some of the cons of flexible sigmoidoscopy include:

  • You must have an enema before the procedure and this is usually unpleasant.
  • A slight, 1 in 10,000 risk the procedure may damage your bowels and cause bleeding.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy only allows doctors to see part of the bowels. Further tests may be required.

Alternatives to Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

There are some alternatives available to flexible sigmoidoscopy depending on your symptoms, as well as your general health, and these alternatives include:


  • The colonoscopy, used to view the entire large bowel, and not just the lower part.
  • CT Colonography, which uses a computerized tomography (CT) to scan your abdomen, then produces images found inside your bowel.
  • Proctoscopy, which looks inside to the very end of your bowel.

What to Expect During Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Dr. Gurunath Reddy, a well-known Digestive and Liver Disease Consultant from Txgidocs.com, an affiliate of United Surgical Partners International (USPI), notes: “This is an outpatient procedure which takes roughly five to fifteen minutes. It may be uncomfortable, but should not be painful, and you won’t need to stay in the hospital after it is complete.”

You will be asked to lie on your left-hand side with your legs bent. The doctor will gently examine your back passage with a gloved finger. After that, the doctor will insert the sigmoidoscope by using some jelly to make the procedure as comfortable as possible. Most patients do not require a sedative to relax, though if you do you will be unable to drive for the next 24 hours.