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Dublin: 9°C Tuesday 18 January 2022

200 cases of bowel cancer found through screening

95% of the tests are normal.


ALMOST 200 CASES of bowel cancer have been found to date in people thanks to BowelScreen.

The early results of the national colorectal cancer screening programme show that it has a 45% participation rate and that 95% of tests are normal, with 5% referred for colonoscopy

BowelScreen has invited over 250,000 people for screening so far – but it wants to increase the participation rate to ensure more people are diagnosed early.

Dr Alan Smith, Medical Director of the HSE National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS), will present the early data about BowelScreen at the Irish Society of Gastroenterology (ISG) Annual Winter Meeting today.

Common cause of cancer

Facts about bowel cancer:

  • It is the second most common cause of cancer death in Ireland
  • Almost 2,500 people in Ireland are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year
  • 1,000 people die from it each year.
  • Currently, more than half of people with bowel cancer are diagnosed in the later stages of the disease
  • Later diagnosis requires more complex treatment with a poorer chance of survival.

Screening aims to find bowel cancer at an early stage when it is easier and more successful to treat. BowelScreen offers free bowel screening to men and women aged 60 to 69 years, using a home testing kit, which is posted to the people who accept the screening invitation.

“95% of the tests are normal and those people will be recalled after two years for screening again. It is just 5% that have a positive test and require a colonoscopy,” Dr Smith said.

Women are better than men for accepting the screening invitation, and Dr Smith said these figures are broadly similar to other countries.

The aim is to increase the participation rate to greater than 50% and Dr Smith said he is “confident we will get it to that figure by the end of next year”.

But he added “we want to drive it higher than that”.

The programme has a two-year screening cycle, so the full results of the first round of BowelScreen will not be available until the end of next year:

The key area we will be judging the screening programme on is whether we are detecting early stage cancers as opposed to late stage. That will reduce mortality and that is the ultimate goal of the programme. It will take two or three screening rounds to confirm this but based on international experience there is no doubt this will happen. This programme will save lives.

Read: Irish scientists have figured out a way to diagnose bowel cancer earlier>

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