A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look inside your rectum and the lower part of your bowel using a narrow, flexible, tube-like telescope called a sigmoidoscope. It can help detect inflammation, the presence of polyps and bowel cancer.
A referral letter from a consultant or GP is required before booking any diagnostic investigation.
Your doctor may recommend a flexible sigmoidoscopy to find out what is causing symptoms such as changes in bowel habits (diarrhoea) or bleeding from your back passage. It is also used to check for inflammation, anal fistula, anal discharge, early signs of cancer and polyps.
During the procedure, your doctor may take one or more biopsies (samples of tissue) for examination in a laboratory.
If you decide to have your procedure with us, you will be looked after by an experienced multi-disciplinary care team.
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You will need a referral letter from a consultant or GP before booking any diagnostic investigation.
You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.
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Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.
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The procedure usually takes up to 10 minutes. It will feel uncomfortable, but shouldn't be painful.
While you're resting on your side, your doctor will gently examine your back passage with a gloved finger before carefully inserting the sigmoidoscope. Lubricating jelly will be used to make this as easy as possible.
Air is then usually pumped through the tube into your lower bowel to make it expand and the bowel wall easier to see. This may cause stomach cramps and you may get an urge to go to the toilet or pass wind.
A camera lens at the end of the sigmoidoscope sends pictures from the inside of your bowel to a TV screen. Your doctor will look at these images. During the procedure, you may be asked to change your position, for example, turning from your side onto your back. This helps your doctor to examine different areas of the bowel more easily.
Your doctor may take one or more biopsies (samples of tissue) for examination in a laboratory using special instruments passed inside the sigmoidoscope. If necessary, it’s possible to remove polyps during the procedure.
A flexible sigmoidoscopy is routinely done as an out-patient or day care procedure depending on the hospital, so you won't need to stay in hospital.
After the procedure, you may feel bloated and have stomach cramps, but these usually clear up quickly. You may also have a little blood in your faeces.
Before you go home, your doctor may explain if they found anything inside your bowel during the procedure. If you have had a biopsy or polyps removed, the results will be ready in a few days. You may be given a date for a follow-up appointment or the results will be sent to the doctor who requested your flexible sigmoidoscopy and they will discuss them with you.
On rare occasions, complications following a flexible sigmoidoscopy can occur. If you experience any of these symptoms – bleeding, or continuing abdominal pain or bloating – call us straight away. These can be signs that there is damage or, in very rare cases, that the lower bowel or rectum has been perforated during the procedure.
Occasionally, a sigmoidoscopy is not completed successfully and may need to be repeated. Your consultant will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.
If you have any questions or concerns, we're here to help.
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The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.
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