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4,184 patients waiting over 3 months to get tested for second most common cancer death in Ireland

Every year in Ireland more than 1,000 people die from bowel cancer.

Image: Shutterstock/A.Basler

TWO OUT OF every five public patients are waiting over three months for a potentially life-saving test.

Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer death in Ireland but more than 4,000 people have been left waiting over three months for a colonoscopy.

The proportion of patients waiting over three months has not dropped below 40% since February 2015.

At the end of February, figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) showed that 4,184 people were waiting over three months for a colonoscopy.

Every year in Ireland about 1,600 men and 1,100 women get bowel cancer, and more than 1,000 people die from it.

Of the 2,700 bowel cancers diagnosed, around 500 are emergencies. Of these emergency diagnoses, approximately three of every five are already at an advanced stage.

Bowel cancer is often very treatable if caught early – 95% of patients diagnosed at stage one are alive five years after diagnosis, compared to 1 in 10 for those diagnosed at stage three.

The Irish Cancer Society has expressed concern at these lengthy waiting times. Donal Buggy, Head of Services and Advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society, said:

“We know that late diagnosis means worse outcomes and fewer treatment options for patients.

This problem is long past crisis point. We simply can’t accept more than 2 out of every 5 public patients waiting over 3 months for an important, and potentially life-saving test, as the new normal.

“Despite increased investment in outsourcing colonoscopies to the NTPF, which has eased capacity issues at important times, we now need more radical longer-term solutions.

“This should include ensuring capacity for diagnostic tests, like colonoscopies, is made available in the elective-only hospitals recently announced as part of the National Development Plan.”

Buggy said: “Sometimes, those waiting for a test whose previously mild symptoms become more severe, may, in such cases of acute pain, be forced to attend an emergency department.”

The Irish Cancer Society is highlighting colonoscopy waiting times as part of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month in April.

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