Introduction of flexible sigmoidoscopy screening

The NHS is introducing flexible sigmoidoscopy (flexi-sig) screening for all men and women when they reach the age of 55.This follows a multicentre randomised controlled trial1 which found that flexible sigmoidoscopy was a safe and practical test which, when offered only once to the appropriate age group conferred a substantial and lasting benefit.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy is a one-off test, which aims to detect bowel polyps and cancers early before any symptoms develop.

This screening test is an addition to the existing NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme, and will be offered to people aged 55. People aged over 55 will be able to request flexi-sig screening up to their 60th birthday. At 60, people will be offered the faecal occult blood test (FOBt) as now, whether or not they have had flexi-sig screening.

What is flexible sigmoidoscopy?

Flexible sigmoidoscopy (flexi-sig) is a way of looking at the inside of the bowel. It uses an instrument called an endoscope. This is a thin flexible tube that is put into the rectum (back passage), and guided around the lower part of the bowel. The lower part of the bowel is where most bowel cancers develop.

When will flexible sigmoidoscopy screening be rolled out across the country?

The details of the introduction of flexi-sig screening are still being worked out. When further information is available it will be posted on this website.


Frequently asked questions about bowel cancer screening.

1Once-only flexible sigmoidoscopy screening in prevention of colorectal cancer: a multicentre randomised controlled trial. Atkin, Edwards, Kralj-Hans et al, The Lancet, Vol 375,no 9726, pp 1624 -1633