Rigid sigmoidoscopy

At your first hospital appointment, your specialist doctor will assess you and may want to do a quick rectal examination there and then. This could be a gloved finger or a rigid sigmoidoscopy, which is a quick, straightforward investigation to look inside your rectum though an endoscope (like a thin, short telescope) passed into the back passage.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy

Alternatively they may ask you to come back on another day to the endoscopy unit for a flexible sigmoidoscopy (also known as flexi-sig or bowel scope). This procedure allows the doctor to see inside the rectum and up into the lower part of the bowel on the left hand side. This is where the majority of polyps and bowel cancers start. During this procedure, if the doctor or nurse sees anything that needs further investigation, samples (biopsies) can be taken for examination in the laboratory.


Public Health England is rolling out a programme of one-off, flexible sigmoidoscopy or bowel scope for men and women aged 55 years. For more information please see bowel scope screening.

Preparing for a sigmoidoscopy

Sigmoidoscopies can be done safely and comfortably in an outpatient clinic and do not require an anaesthetic or sedation. You will need to have some kind of bowel preparation prior to the test, to make sure that your bowel is clear sothe doctor or nurse can see the bowel lining clearly. The bowel preparation for a sigmoidoscopy is usually an enema (medicine given straight into the back passage) on the day of the test.