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Low uptake of free screening ‘concerning’

5 April 2017 Latest News National News News

In support of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month this April, BowelScreen – The National Bowel Screening Programme is highlighting that just 40 per cent of the eligible population are taking part in the free bowel screening programme, despite early detection providing the best chance of survival.

Professor Diarmuid O’Donoghue, Clinical Director of BowelScreen, said: “The low numbers of people screening in Ireland are concerning, particularly given bowel cancer is the second most deadly cancer in this country. In the first round completed in 2015, BowelScreen detected 521 cancers, three in four of which were at an early stage, making it a truly lifesaving programme.”

“But what we’re seeing is that just 40.2 per cent of the eligible population is participating in BowelScreen. The challenge is to ensure that people aren’t put off by the test. It is a very quick, easy-to-use test that can be carried out in the privacy of your own home. It takes just minutes and this simple test could save your life.”

“This year, during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, we want to encourage anyone aged 60 to 69, who has been invited to take part in the programme, to do the test. Anyone in this age range who has not been invited can register online at www.bowelscreen.ie or by calling 1800 45 45 55.”

“The vast majority of people, around 95 per cent, will have a normal home test result and be invited again in two years’ time. For a small number of people, the test might result in a colonoscopy. In most cases this procedure may detect and remove pre-cancerous growths, known as polyps or adenomas, in the bowel preventing bowel cancer from developing in many individuals.”

In Ireland, bowel cancer causes over 1,000 deaths a year and the number of new cases of bowel cancer has been on the increase since 1994. This trend is expected to continue over the next ten years due primarily to an ageing population and increasing life expectancy.

An information campaign promoting the BowelScreen programme will run throughout Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. BowelScreen encourages everyone, regardless of age or participation in screening, to become bowel aware and to contact their GP for advice if worried about their bowel health.

Some of the most common symptoms of bowel cancer are:

  • A change in your bowel habits such as going to the toilet more often or diarrhoea that lasts for a number of weeks;
  • Bleeding from the back passage (also known as the rectum) for no obvious reason;
  • Constant pain in your abdomen (tummy);
  • A lump in your tummy;
  • Loss of weight when you’re not trying to lose weight.

A number of conditions can cause these symptoms. If you have one or more of these symptoms, or you are worried about your bowel health you should see your GP (family doctor) immediately.

To reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer:

  • Be more physically active;
  • Eat a diet with plenty of dietary fibre such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrain bread, brown rice and cereals;
  • Reduce intake of processed and red meat;
  • Keep a healthy weight;
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you take;
  • Take part in the BowelScreen programme when invited.

More information about the programme is available at www.bowelscreen.ie or from Freephone 1800 45 45 55.