Detection rate 11% in cancer screening

A PILOT bowel cancer screening programme detected cancer in 11% of test cases, an Oireachtas Committee was told yesterday.

The programme, which has been taking place at Tallaght Hospital in Dublin, also found early cancer polyps in a further 33% of procedures.

Consultant gastroenterologist, Prof Colm O’Moráin, told members of the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children that the interim findings from the first part of a two-year study made a very strong case for a national screening programme.

Prof O’Moráin, who was part of an Irish Cancer Society delegation, said that these were outstanding results and would encourage more people to seek the tests.

“Fortunately, most cases were for early stages of cancer, where survival rates are very good and treatment options relatively straightforward,” said Prof O’Moráin

Some 5,000 stool test packs were offered to people aged between 50 and 74 and 2,100 took the test. Of these, 134 had colonoscopies performed in Tallaght and 15 cancers were detected.

Prof O’Moráin said a further 44 individuals had significant polyps, an early form of the cancer. Two cancers were detected in the 50 to 54 age group.

Chief executive of the Irish Cancer Society, John McCormack, said the society was pressing for the implementation of a national bowel cancer screening programme by 2010 for everyone living in Ireland aged between 50 and 75.

A health technology assessment of a screening programme by the Health Information and Quality Authority is currently with the Minister for Health, Mary Harney.

And in a separate meeting with the committee, the chief executive of the Asthma Society of Ireland, Dr Jean Holohan, said a pilot project capable of reducing deaths from asthma by 90% over a 10-year period would be launched in the autumn.

Dr Holohan said about half a million people had asthma — the most common and fastest growing chronic disease in Ireland. She also pointed out that least one person died from the condition every week.

Dr Holohan said the primary-based asthma management programme, based on a highly successful Finnish model, would recruit 25 GPs in five primary care teams and would reach over 5,000 asthma patients.

Total funding for the six-month pilot project, estimated at about €210,000, is being provided by the society.


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