Types of Endoscopy

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 06/2019

Endoscopy is a procedure that allows a doctor to view the inside of a person's body. Doctors use it to diagnose diseases in the following parts of the body:

  • Esophagus

  • Stomach

  • Colon

  • Ears

  • Nose

  • Throat

  • Heart

  • Urinary tract

  • Joints

  • Abdomen

What is an endoscope?

During an endoscopy, the doctor inserts a tool called an endoscope into a person’s body. Most endoscopes are thin tubes with a powerful light and tiny camera at the end.

The endoscope's length and flexibility depend on the part of the body the doctor needs to see.

For example, a straight endoscope helps a doctor look at joints. Meanwhile, a flexible one helps a doctor view the inside of the colon.

Other tools used during an endoscopy

Typically, an endoscope has a channel through which the doctor can insert tools. These tools collect tissue or provide treatment.

Types of tools include:

  • Flexible forceps. These tong-like tools take a tissue sample.

  • Biopsy forceps. These remove a tissue sample or a suspicious growth.

  • Cytology brushes. These take cell samples.

  • Suture removal forceps. These remove stitches inside the body

Why you may need an endoscopy

Your doctor may recommend an endoscopy for various reasons:

To screen for and prevent cancer. For example, doctors use a type of endoscopy called a colonoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer. During a colonoscopy, your doctor may remove growths called polyps. Without removal, polyps could develop into cancer.

To diagnose a disease or find out the cause of symptoms. The type of endoscopy your doctor will recommend depends on the part of the body under examination.

To give treatment. Doctors use endoscopes for certain treatments.

Treatments that may involve an endoscope include:

  • Laparoscopic surgery, which is done through small incisions in the skin

  • Laser therapy, which uses a powerful beam of light to destroy cancer cells

  • Microwave ablation, which uses heat to destroy cancerous tissue

  • Endoscopic mucosal resection or endoscopic submucosal dissection, which is surgery using an endoscope inserted into the gastrointestinal tract

  • Photodynamic therapy, which destroys a tumor with a laser after injecting it with a light-sensitive substance

  • Medication delivery, also called medication administration

Types of endoscopy

The most common types of endoscopy are listed below.

Name of procedure

Name of tool

Area or organ viewed

How endoscope reaches target area



Anus and/or rectum

Inserted through the anus




Inserted through a small incision over the joint



Trachea, or windpipe, and the lungs

Inserted through the mouth



Entire length of the colon and large intestine

Inserted through the anus



Vagina and cervix

Placed at the vagina’s opening after a tool called a speculum dilates the vagina. It is not inserted in the body.



Inside of the bladder

Inserted through the urethra




Inserted through the mouth



Stomach and duodenum, which is the beginning of the small intestine

Inserted through the mouth



Stomach, liver, or other abdominal organs, including female reproductive organs, including the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes

Inserted through a small, surgical opening in the abdomen



Larynx, or voice box

Inserted through the mouth



Areas of the brain

Inserted through a small incision in the skull



Rectum and sigmoid colon, which is the bottom part of the colon

Inserted through the anus



Sigmoid colon

Inserted through the anus



Pleura, which are the 2 membranes covering the lungs and lining the chest cavity, and structures covering the heart

Inserted through a small surgical opening in chest

Doctors who do an endoscopy go through extensive training to learn these procedures. They also are continually learning about new developments in technology.

How should I prepare for an endoscopy?

Your health care team will give you detailed instructions on how to prepare before your appointment. For example, you may need to take these steps:

  • Avoid eating or drinking anything for several hours before the procedure.

  • Stop taking blood-thinning medications several days before the procedure. This reduces the risk of bleeding. Ask your doctor about which medications to stop taking. And ask when you should start taking the medications again.

  • Take a laxative or use an enema to remove stool from your bowels. You will only need to do this for certain types of endoscopy.

Insurance, costs, and consent. Before your appointment, ask your insurance provider what costs will be covered. Find out how much you will have to pay. Once you arrive at the doctor's office or hospital, you will be asked to sign a consent form. This form states that you understand the benefits and risks of the procedure and that you agree to have it.

During the procedure

For most endoscopic procedures, you will not need to stay in the hospital overnight.

You may receive a type of anesthesia, depending on the type of endoscopy. Anesthesia blocks the awareness of pain. You may be awake, drowsy, or asleep during the procedure depending on the type of anesthesia you have. While you receive anesthesia, your health care team will provide "anesthesia care," which includes monitoring your temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate.

During the procedure, your doctor will review and, possibly, record images from the endoscope. He or she will also perform any procedures. This could include the collecting tissue for testing.

After the procedure

After the endoscopy, you will rest in a recovery area. You may have mild side effects. Side effects depend on the type of endoscopy and may include a sore, dry throat, or bloating and gas.

Depending on the type of anesthesia you receive, you may need to have someone drive you home.

What should I expect after returning home? Problems from an endoscopy are uncommon, but they can happen. These include a hole or tear in the examination area, bleeding, or infection.

Talk with your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Fever

  • Vomiting

  • Chest pain

  • Abnormal stool

  • Shortness of breath

  • Severe abdominal pain or other unusual symptoms

Advances in endoscopy

New techniques continue to make endoscopy more comfortable for people. They also make it easier for doctors to diagnose diseases.

New endoscopic techniques include:

Virtual endoscopy. Unlike a standard endoscopy, the doctor does not insert an endoscope into the body. These tests involve computed tomography (CT) scans of thin segments of the body. A computer combines these images to create a more complete view.

Researchers continue to study these and other types of virtual endoscopy:

  • Virtual colonoscopy. This procedure looks at the inside of the colon. People having this test still need to follow the same bowel-cleansing preparations. They will also need a traditional colonoscopy if polyps are found.

  • Virtual bronchoscopy. This procedure looks at the inside of the lungs.

Capsule endoscopy. A patient swallows a small, vitamin-sized capsule with a camera. The camera takes pictures of the inside of the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. A device that you wear for approximately 8 hours records the pictures. Then, the doctor reviews them.

Related Resources



Upper Endoscopy

More Information

MedlinePlus: Endoscopy