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Bowel cancer screening programme to be phased in this year

Minister for Health James Reilly TD has confirmed the national screening programme will begin before the end of this year. It was initially due to start in January.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

THE NATIONAL BOWEL cancer screening programme will be introduced on a phased basis from the end of this year, Minister for Health, James Reilly TD, announced today.

Fine Gael Limerick TD, Patrick O’Donovan, has welcomed confirmation from the minister, saying:

Bowel cancer accounts for almost 1,000 deaths in Ireland every year. The introduction of a national screening programme has been delayed on a number of occasions, but I am glad to receive confirmation from the Minister for Health that roll-out will begin in the final quarter of this year, delivering on a Government commitment to introduce bowel cancer screening in 2012.

He said that screening for bowel cancer “has proven to be effective on two fronts; it provides early detection and therefore earlier and more effective treatment, and it helps to prevent cancer in the first place by detecting pre-cancerous growths such as polyps”.

The National Colorectal Screening Programme was due to be introduced in January of this year, but was delayed until mid-2012, the National Cancer Screening Service said in September of last year.

It said that the delay was caused by a need to “ensure the quality assurance standards can be met”, and also a need to reach fully quality assured status.

Programme

Deputy O’Donovan noted that under the programme, free screening will be offered to men and women aged 55-74 every two years.

As 50 per cent of cancers within this age group are found in people aged 60-69, the programme will begin with this age cohort. This accounts for about half a million people. The programme will also be the first to include screening for men.

Deputy O’Donovan said he understands that planning is “well underway” within the HSE’s National Cancer Screening Service to ensure the right services are in place to support the introduction and expansion of the screening programme.

Minister Reilly has said the focus will be on improving quality and access at all publicly-funded screening colonoscopy units, not just for those referred for colonoscopy as part of the screening programme, but for all men and women who require a colonoscopy or any other diagnostic endoscopic procedure.

He added that 15 candidate colonoscopy units have been identified around the country to support the screening programme and an academic partner has been identified to provide training to clinical nurse specialists.

Read: Research underway to develop blood test to detect bowel cancer>

Read: Bowel cancer screening delayed until next year>

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