Flexible Sigmoidoscopy and Bowel Cancer Screening

London Gastroenterology Partnership are proud to offer flexible sigmoidoscopy. This has very recently been validated for bowel cancer screening services.


How does screening prevent bowel cancer?

Bowel (colon) cancer is a common cancer. Early on it is often asymptomatic, the earlier this cancer is diagnosed the greater the chance of achieving a complete cure. The majority of cancers start off as non-cancerous polyps (growths on the wall of the bowel). Removal of polyps stops cancers developing.


Why flexible sigmoidoscopy?

A medical trial recently published in The Lancet has demonstrated that a one off procedure called a flexible sigmoidoscopy carried out in healthy individuals aged between 55 and 64 can significantly reduce the incidence and mortality of bowel cancer.


The UK Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Trial was a large (170 432 subjects), randomized controlled trial with long follow up (median 11 years) which demonstrated that this safe relatively non-invasive test confers a substantial and long-lasting benefit. In those who underwent a flexible sigmoidoscopy there was:
* 33% reduction in the risk of diagnosis with bowel cancer
* 43% reduction in the risk of death from bowel cancer
* 50% reduction in incidence of distal bowel cancer


What is a flexible sigmoidoscopy? 

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is an endoscopic examination of the lower bowel. Before the flexible sigmoidoscopy you will be asked to change into a hospital gown. An enema will be given to help you open the bowel to allow a clear view to be obtained. You will be asked to lie on your left side and if requested injection given to make you relaxed and sleepy. The colonoscope will be inserted into your bottom and air is gently passed into the bowel. The air may cause you to feel the need to open the bowel. The colonoscope can remove any liquid in the bowel.
If a polyp is found it will be removed. A polyp is a growth from the lining of the bowel and if left they can grow and cause problems in the future.
The procedure will take between 10-20 minutes.


Why a flexible sigmoidoscopy not a colonoscopy?

The strongest evidence at present suggests in asymptomatic individuals they should have a one off flexible sigmoidoscopy aged between 55 and 64 and faecal occult blood testing every two years aged 60 to 75 years old with a colonoscopy if positive.


Individuals with higher risk (such as a family history of bowel cancer) should discuss the best screening test with an expert from the London Gastroenterology Partnership.



London Gastroenterology Partnership operates as a limited company