What is a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

A gastroenterologist, or healthcare provider specializing in the gastrointestinal system, performs a flexible sigmoidoscopy to view the inside of the lower (sigmoid) part of your colon and rectum. Your healthcare provider uses a sigmoidoscope, a flexible lighted tube with a camera. The procedure helps your healthcare provider diagnose, and sometimes treat, bowel disorders and cancer.

Gastrointestinal tract | Cleveland Clinic

Who might need a flexible sigmoidoscopy?

Your healthcare provider may recommend a flexible sigmoidoscopy if you experience:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Chronic diarrhea.
  • Rectal bleeding.
  • Unexplained weight loss.

Why do healthcare providers perform flexible sigmoidoscopies?

Healthcare providers use flexible sigmoidoscopies to diagnose:

  • Colon cancer.
  • Colon polyps (groups of cells in the colon that can become cancer).
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), namely ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
  • Rectal ulcers.

What’s the difference between a flexible sigmoidoscopy and a colonoscopy?

Both procedures are screening tools for colon cancer. A sigmoidoscopy is less invasive. It allows your healthcare provider to see only the lower part of the colon. With a colonoscopy, your healthcare provider can examine all of the large intestine. If the flexible sigmoidoscopy procedure reveals polyps in your lower colon, your healthcare provider can remove them. You’ll need a colonoscopy next. During a colonoscopy, your healthcare provider can remove additional polyps before they turn cancerous.

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