Low Uptake Of Simple Home Test Means Late Diagnosis Of Bowel Cancer Set To Continue

Bowel Cancer is the one of the most common cancers in Ireland with 2,485 people diagnosed with the disease every year. In Offaly alone, 44 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2013. Despite the high incidence of the disease, uptake of the national bowel screening programme, BowelScreen remains low at 40 per cent among those eligible to participate.

Men and women in Ireland between the 60-69 years of age are currently invited to take part in BowelScreen. Participation is low among both men and women with only 44 per cent of women taking part, and 36 per cent of men. The disease accounts for 1,000 deaths per year with almost 50 per cent of all bowel cancer patients diagnosed at a late stage. 

Bowel screening aims to find bowel cancer at an early stage in people who have no symptoms.  Patients who are diagnosed at stage one bowel cancer have a five year survival rate of 95 per cent compared to those diagnosed at stage four who have a five year survival rate of 10 per cent. As the risk of bowel cancer increases with age, by taking part in the programme every two years, bowel cancer which does occur will be found at an early stage.

Test results from BowelScreen are expected to be normal for more than 9 in 10 participants and these people will be invited for routine screening again in two years. About 5 in 100 people will receive an abnormal result and will need an additional test. They will be referred to the hospital for a screening colonoscopy to determine any abnormality in the bowel.

Joan Kelly, Cancer Support Manager, at the Irish Cancer Society said: “Bowel cancer is very treatable once it is diagnosed early. We are encouraging men and women who are eligible for screening to take part. You can participate in BowelScreen in the comfort of your own home, by doing a simple home test which will only take a few minutes.

Aside from taking part in BowelScreen, people of all ages can ensure they are aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer. If you do experience any symptoms of bowel cancer which go on longer than three weeks, visit your GP without delay. The main message to the public is the longer you leave it, the bigger the problem.”

People between the ages of 60-69 years of age are invited to participate in BowelScreen by letter. Once they receive the letter, participation is confirmed by calling BowelScreen on Freephone 1800 45 45 45. A test kit will then be sent in the post to the person’s home with simple instructions on how to do the test. Once the test is completed, it is sent back to BowelScreen in the Freepost envelope provided.  

The Irish Cancer Society, which is running its annual bowel cancer awareness campaign throughout April, is appealing to the public to remember that early detection saves lives. Anyone who is concerned about bowel cancer can contact the Irish Cancer Society’s Cancer Nurseline on Freephone 1800 200 700 to speak to a cancer nurse who can offer information and support. Visitwww.cancer.ie/bowel for further information.

Bowel Cancer Symptoms can include:

  • Blood in your bowel motion or bleeding from the back passage
  • A lasting change in your normal bowel motion, such as diarrhoea or constipation.(more than three weeks)
  • Feeling you have not emptied your bowel fully after a motion.
  • Pain or discomfort in your abdomen (tummy) or back passage.
  • Trapped wind or fullness in your tummy.
  • Weight loss for no reason
  • Ongoing general tiredness or weakness.
  • A lump in your tummy area.

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