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About the test

The following information will explain what to expect on the day of your appointment.

Before your test

On the day of your test you’ll need an enema. This is because your bowels must be empty for us to carry out the screening. 


If you prefer, you can bring the enema to the hospital before your appointment where staff will be able to help you.  You will need to arrive at the hospital at least an hour before your appointment.


You can easily use the enema yourself at home too – you’ll receive a pack in the post with everything you need and instructions.  If you’re using the enema at home, do it an hour before leaving for your appointment.


The enema comes in a small plastic pouch with a nozzle. It’s simple to use, just squeeze the liquid from the pouch into your bottom. You will poo quickly after the enema, leaving your bowel empty and ready for the test.


Watch our video clip to hear what other patients thought about the enema.

Once you arrive for your appointment a nurse or doctor will explain what will happen and answer any questions. 

The enema is easy to use and you can do it at home or at hospital before your test.

How the test works

A Flexible Sigmoidoscopy involves a trained doctor or nurse inserting the tube into your bottom whilst you lie on your side. They will pump in a small amount  of air to expand your bowel and they will examine you for polyps. 


Polyps are harmless growths, which can over time become tumours.  Removing polyps dramatically reduces your chance of getting bowel cancer in future. 


If they find polyps they will usually remove them there and then, preventing them from leading to cancer. They may also take a small sample of your bowel tissue to examine it under a microscope.


They will tell you straightaway if they’ve removed any polyps or if you need any further tests.  If any signs of cancer are found, you will receive treatment. This will have a much better chance of success than if your cancer had been diagnosed once you were experiencing symptoms.


They whole appointment will last around 20 minutes and you’ll be able to go home or back to work afterwards.

Remember – The test if for everyone aged 55 to 59, not just people with symptoms.  

How it feels

Most people find the test, and the removal of polyps, completely painless. You may feel mild bloating or cramps as air is introduced into the bowel, but this will go away quickly.


A small number of people (around one in 3,000) will experience bleeding after the test. This will be treated by a doctor immediately. If you have any pain or bleeding after the test contact the hospital or your GP straightaway.

Remember - For most people the test is painless, with no after-effects.

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