What’s the Difference Between a Colonoscopy and a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

A colonoscopy takes a thorough look at the whole of the large bowel, up to the end of the small bowel; while a flexible sigmoidoscopy is a short test which only examines the rectum and sigmoid colon.

These common tests are used to examine the health of your digestive system. They can help diagnose numerous digestive illnesses, from coeliac disease to bowel cancer.

Your consultant will decide which method is best for you based on your symptoms.

Which Symptoms Require a Colonoscopy or Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Investigation?

Common symptoms that may need further investigation can include:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Abdominal bloating/distention.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Unintentional weight loss.
  • Bleeding from the back passage.
  • Change in bowel habit.
  • Tenesmus (feeling of incomplete evacuation).
  • Family history of polyps or cancer.

Does Family History Increase my Risk?

Risk factors that may lead to getting either procedure would include:

  • First degree relative with bowel cancer.
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis.

Most cases of digestive illnesses occur in people with no family history. However, having a close family member who has been diagnosed with (cancer?), before the age of 60, can increase the risk of you developing the disease, too.

It’s important to remember that an early diagnosis increases the chance of treatment being successful. If you have been experiencing any of the symptoms above, you can get in touch with our team today.

What Happens During a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is a thorough examination to help diagnose any problems in the digestive system. It looks closely at all of the large bowel, right up to the end of the small bowel.

In order to diagnose certain digestive health problems, this is the only investigation that can be used.

A colonoscopy procedure can uncover the presence of:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Flat colon polyps

During the procedure, the medical team will be looking for any particular signs that suggest further investigation is needed, or to find a possible diagnosis for your symptoms.

Some patients prefer to be sedated throughout the procedure, to make the test more comfortable.

After the colonoscopy, you may experience a cramping sensation or the need to pass gas. Rest assured, this is completely normal.

What Can I Expect from a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy?

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is a screening test. It’s used to examine the rectum and sigmoid colon, using a small tube with a camera on the end.

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is used when only a brief, non-invasive check of the colon is needed, rather than carrying out a full colonoscopy. Therefore, you will not need to be sedated for this procedure.

During the investigation, a small biopsy may be carried out, but this is a painless procedure.

After the sigmoidoscopy, you may experience a cramping sensation or the need to pass gas. Rest assured, this is completely normal.

In some circumstances, this procedure may lead to further investigations which would require may require some patients to return for a full colonoscopy.

Get in Touch

Have you experienced any of these symptoms?

At OneWelbeck you can expect exceptional care in a calm, supportive environment.

If you have any questions about these procedures, our team of world-class gastroenterologists will be happy to discuss options with you.

You can get in touch with us here.