A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a procedure used to examine the lower part of the large intestine just above the rectum. This region of the digestive tract is known as the sigmoid colon.


Flexible Sigmoidoscopy is used to diagnose the cause of certain symptoms, and to detect diseases in their early stages.

  • Bleeding – Rectal bleeding is very common. It is often caused by hemorrhoids or by a small tear at the anus, called a fissure. More serious problems also can cause bleeding. Benign polyps can bleed. It is important to identify and remove polyps at an early stage before they can become cancerous. Rectal and colon cancers bleed and require immediate diagnosis and treatment. Finally, colitis and inflammation can cause bleeding.

  • Diarrhea – Persistent diarrhea always should be evaluated. There are many causes of diarrhea and the exam is a great help in identifying a specific cause.

  • Pain – Hemorrhoids and fissures are some causes of pain around the anus or in the rectum. Tumors can cause discomfort in the lower abdomen. Diverticulosis, a condition in which small pockets or sacks project from the bowels, can occur in the lower bowel.

  • X-ray Findings – A barium enema x-ray exam may show abnormalities the need to be confirmed and/or treated.

  • Detection – Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in the country and is highly curable if detected early. This cancer usually begins in the colon as a polyp


To obtain the full benefits of the procedure, the rectum and sigmoid colon must be clean. Instructions on how to prepare for the procedure usually involve drinking clear liquids the day before along with taking enemas and/or laxatives. Your Esse Health doctor will advise you regarding the use of your regular medications during this time


A flexible sigmoidoscopy is usually performed on an outpatient basis without sedation. Lying on your left side with your legs drawn up, a digital exam of the anus and rectum is performed. An endoscope (a thin tube with a light and camera) is gently inserted into the rectum and air is inflated into the bowel to expand it and allow for careful examination. You may feel a slight discomfort similar to strong gas cramps. The exam takes 5 – 15 minutes.


Bloating and bowel distention are common side effects due to the air inflated into the bowel. This usually lasts 30 – 60 minutes. If a biopsy is performedor a polyp removed, you may notice some spotting of blood. This is rarely serious. The benefits include:

  • It is often possible to determine the specific cause of symptom

  • Conditions such as colitis and diverticulosis can be monitored to determine the effectiveness of treatment

  • Polyps and tumors can be discovered at an early stage.