Sigmoidoscopy, also known as flexible sigmoidoscopy allows the doctor to view the inside of the sigmoid colon. A tube is inserted with a camera fitted to its end that allows visual evaluation of the sigmoid colon. The symptoms of Sigmoidoscopy are rectal bleeding, unexplained weight loss, changes in bowel movement and abdominal pain. Sigmoidoscopy is also considered a useful screening tool for detecting colon cancer.

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Sigmoidoscopy is a medical test performed to evaluate the lower portion of the colon and the inner lining of the rectum. It is the right way of investigating problems like rectal bleeding, rectal symptoms, change in bowel habits, etc. Doctors also use this procedure to check for rectal cancer or colon cancer.

A flexible tube (called sigmoidoscope), measuring 60 centimetres long is inserted carefully into the anus and advanced gently to the lower colon and the rectum during the test. Also called flexible Sigmoidoscopy, the procedure helps detect conditions like ulcers, polyps, abnormal cells and cancer.

In other words, a signmoidoscopy is described as a general screening tool for rectal and colon diseases. The procedure is generally recommended in patients who have a history of colorectal cancer in family and are above 50 years of age. Other symptoms of Sigmoidoscopy involve constipation, changes in bowel movements, diarrhea, blood and pus formation in stool and unexplained weight loss.

Before the Treatment

Before flexible Sigmoidoscopy, the doctor advices patients to follow certain things to ensure accurate test results. The preparation procedures for Sigmoidoscopy are almost similar to a Colonoscopy.

  • You need to keep the colon clean and free of stools, and for that the doctor generally advices one or two more enemas approximately two hours before the procedure. This helps to empty your lower intestine and rectum.
  • Some patients are prescribed laxatives and specific dietary modifications before the procedure begins. You may have the laxative with liquids like tea or plain coffee, fat-free broth, water, Jell-O, electrolytes.
  • It is inevitable to inform the doctor regarding a few things, whether you are pregnant, are allergic to certain medicines, have diabetes that may impact blood clotting, have any heart or lung condition, etc.
  • Patients are generally suggested antibiotics before the procedure; but this varies from patient to patient.
  • The test takes 10-20 minutes to perform and patients are not required to be sedated.
  • One should not drink or eat anything on the day of the test. However, a light breakfast can be taken in the morning.

How it is performed

  • You are taken to the examination room and asked to lie down on your the left side with knees drawn close to the chest.
  • The doctor uses a lubricated, gloved finger to examine for any blockage in the rectum. While doing so, he gently enlarges the opening of the anus before the sigmoidoscope is inserted. This is the first stage of the procedure, which is called digital rectam exam.
  • Then, a scope is inserted through the anus that has a camera fitted to one end. The doctor guides the scope into your colon and air is pumped through the tube inside to inflate the area for better viewing of the colon walls.
  • Patients may feel the urge to pass gas or have bowel movement at this point. Symptoms like slight pressure in the rectum, cramping and bloating are common during the procedure. A suction tube may be used to remove stool or fluid that comes out when the scope is inserted.
  • The doctor then extracts tiny tissue samples with the aid of a biopsy tool which is put inside. Small polyps are generally removed during the test with the Sigmoidoscope without any difficulty. Once the test is complete, the doctor has pictures of the inside of the colon that he uses for evaluation.


After Sigmoidoscopy procedure, you may show signs of bloody stool, dizziness, severe abdominal pain and fever that should instantly be referred to the doctor.

Experiencing slight cramping and bloating are common symptoms that usually disappear with passing of flatus or gas. Walk a little to help the gas pass out which was inserted during the procedure. For most patients the recovery time of Sigmoidoscopy is brief since they can resume normal activities after leaving the hospital.

After the procedure, the doctor explains to you about the findings. He may discuss with you about any biopsies. If the situation demands, you may have to undergo the procedure once again. In other cases, the patient may need to repeat the procedure if the doctor couldn’t take clearer pictures of the rectum or colon.