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Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Procedure

Flexible sigmoidoscopy lets your doctor examine the lining of the rectum and a portion of the colon (large intestine) by inserting a flexible tube about the thickness of your finger into the anus and slowly advancing it into the rectum and lower part of the colon. The test's purpose is to check for cancer, abnormal growths (polyps), and ulcers.

If your healthcare provider finds something unusual during the procedure, they may be able to do a biopsy. For example, if an abnormality is found in a sigmoidoscopy, your healthcare provider will probably want to follow up with a colonoscopy.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Preparation

Your doctor will tell you what cleansing routine to use. In general, preparation consists of one or two enemas prior to the procedure but could include laxatives or dietary modifications as well. However, in some circumstances your doctor might advise you to forgo any special preparation.


Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking so that they can advise you on whether to continue taking your medications or if you need to abstain from taking any of them for the procedure.

Because the rectum and lower colon must be completely empty for the procedure to be accurate, it's important to follow your doctor's instructions carefully.

Learn More About Bowel Prep...

You’ll be given sedatives right before the endoscopy, so you’ll need to have someone else drive you home afterward. You should plan on taking the entire day off from work. If you’re a parent with small kids at home, try to arrange to have someone stay with you that day to help take care of them so you can rest.


What to Expect During a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is usually well-tolerated. You might experience a feeling of pressure, bloating or cramping during the procedure. You will lie on your side while your doctor advances the sigmoidoscope through the rectum and colon. As your doctor withdraws the instrument, your doctor will carefully examine the lining of the intestine.

​The procedure usually takes 15 to 20 minutes.

What to Expect After a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Your doctor will explain the results to you when the procedure is done. If a biopsy was taken, your healthcare provider should have the results in a few days.

You might feel bloating or some mild cramping because of the air that was passed into the colon during the examination. This will disappear quickly when you pass gas.


You should be able to eat and resume your normal activities after leaving your doctor's office or the hospital, assuming you did not receive any sedative medication.

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