A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure in which a doctor uses a flexible, narrow tube with a light and tiny camera on one end, called a sigmoidoscope or scope, to look inside your rectum and lower colon, also called the sigmoid colon and descending colon. Flexible sigmoidoscopy can show irritated or swollen tissue, ulcers, polyps, and cancer.
Why do doctors use flexible sigmoidoscopy?
A flexible sigmoidoscopy can help a doctor find the cause of unexplained symptoms, such as:
• bleeding from your anus
• changes in your bowel activity such as diarrhea
• pain in your abdomen
• unexplained weight loss
Doctors also use flexible sigmoidoscopy as a screening tool for colon polyps and colon and rectal cancer. Screening may find diseases at an early stage, when a doctor has a better chance of curing the disease.
How do I prepare for a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
For instructions on how to prepare for your flexible sigmoidoscopy, refer to the link at the bottom of this page.
How do doctors perform a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
A trained doctor performs a flexible sigmoidoscopy in a day surgery setting ( TBRHSC’s 3rd floor Endoscopy Unit). You typically do not need sedatives or anesthesia, and the procedure takes about 20 minutes.
For the procedure, you’ll be asked to lie on a table while the doctor inserts a sigmoidoscope into your anus and slowly guides it through your rectum and into your sigmoid colon. The scope pumps air into your large intestine to give the doctor a better view. The camera sends a video image of your intestinal lining to a monitor, allowing the doctor to examine the tissues lining your sigmoid colon and rectum. The doctor may ask you to move several times on the table to adjust the scope for better viewing. Once the scope has reached your transverse colon, the doctor slowly withdraws it and examines the lining of your sigmoid colon again.
During the procedure, your doctor may remove polyps and send them to a lab for testing. Colon polyps are common in adults and are harmless in most cases. However, most colon cancer begins as a polyp, so removing polyps early is an effective way to prevent cancer.
If your doctor finds abnormal tissue, they may perform a biopsy however you won’t feel the biopsy.
If your doctor found polyps or other abnormal tissue during a flexible sigmoidoscopy, your doctor may suggest you return for a colonoscopy.
What should I expect after a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
After a flexible sigmoidoscopy, you can expect the following:
• cramping in your abdomen or bloating during the first hour after the procedure.
• to resume regular activities right away after the procedure.
• return to a normal diet.
A health care professional will give you written instructions on how to take care of yourself after the procedure and will review them with you. You should follow all instructions.
If the doctor removed polyps or performed a biopsy, you may have light bleeding from your anus. This bleeding is normal. Some results from a flexible sigmoidoscopy are available right after the procedure, and your doctor will share these results with you. A pathologist will examine the biopsy tissue. Biopsy results take a few weeks or longer to come back.
What are the risks of a flexible sigmoidoscopy?
The risks of a flexible sigmoidoscopy include:
• perforation of the colon
• severe pain in your abdomen
• death, although this risk is rare
Seek care right away
If you have any of the following symptoms after a flexible sigmoidoscopy, seek care right away:
• severe pain in your abdomen
• continued bloody bowel movements or continued bleeding from your anus
Click below for instructions for your Flexible Sigmoidoscopy.