Flexible sigmoidoscopy uses a thin, flexible tube called a sigmoidscope to look through the anus and into the rectum and sigmoid (lower portion of the colon or large intestine) for cancer or other disease. The medical test is usually performed in a doctor office visit, an outpatient center, or a hospital.  It requires a bowel prep to assure the intestines are free of any stool. Sigmoidoscopy can help diagnose changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, bleeding from the anus, and weight loss. The test commonly is used as a screening tool for colon cancer. The preferred method is a complete colonoscopy, but a flexible sigmoidoscopy requires less time. The procedure can find irritated tissue, ulcers, and polyps. Polyps are possibly precancerous pieces of tissue that grow on the inner intestine lining. The American College of Gastroenterology recommends screening for colon cancer at age 50 for people who are not more likely to develop the disease, and at age 45 for African Americans, who are more likely to develop it. Earlier screening may be recommended if there is a family history of colon cancer or if the person has other risk factors for colon cancer, such as inflammatory bowel disease.


Patients who choose UAB Medicine for their gastrointestinal cancer care will benefit from a pacesetting team of specialists, state-of-the-art technology, and some treatments not available at other medical centers. We have an outstanding team of surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists and gastroenterologists, and by coming to the O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB, you may be eligible for cutting-edge medications and treatments through a clinical trial. We employ a unique multidisciplinary approach to identifying and treating both pre-cancerous lesions of the pancreas and individuals who are at a higher risk of pancreatic cancer, in the hope of avoiding the development of cancers in the future.

A GI cancer diagnosis can produce a high level of stress for patients, so we provide a nurse navigator to help organize your visit. The program streamlines your introduction to UAB Medicine by arranging for your medical records, setting your appointments, and guiding you throughout the process. This allows your treatment team to deliver more efficient care.

Related Conditions

This procedure may be used to treat or diagnose several different conditions. We have listed some of these conditions below for your convenience. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list and may vary depending on your specific diagnosis.


UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for Sigmoidoscopy. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.

View Clinical Trials