Low uptake of bowel cancer screening and late diagnosis ‘creating risk’

Late diagnosis of bowel cancer is likely to continue because of the low uptake of a simple home test, it has emerged.

The Irish Cancer Society is concerned that just 40% of people are taking part in the BowelScreen programme.

Bowel cancer, one of the most common cancers in Ireland, accounts for 1,000 deaths every year.

Men and women aged between 60 and 69 are invited to take part in the national screening programme.

However, participation is low among men and women with only 44% of women taking part and 36% of men.

The low uptake is happening at a time when almost 2,500 people are being diagnosed with bowel cancer every year. There were 302 people in Cork diagnosed with the disease in 2013.

Almost half of patients are diagnosed with bowel cancer after it has reached a late stage.

Screening is recommended so bowel cancer is found at an early stage in people who have no symptoms.

Patients diagnosed with bowel cancer at stage one have a five-year survival rate of 95%, compared to those diagnosed at stage four with a five-year survival rate of 10%.

Test results from BowelScreen are expected to be normal for more than nine out of 10 participants and they will be invited for routine screening again in two years.

The society’s cancer support manager, Joan Kelly, said the simple home test that was posted to the person’s home only took a few minutes to complete.

It is sent back to BowelScreen in the Freepost envelope provided.

“We are encouraging men and women who are eligible for screening to take part,” said Ms Kelly, who wants people of all ages to be bowel cancer aware.

“If you do experience any symptoms of bowel cancer which go on longer than three weeks, visit your GP without delay,” she urged.

“The main message to the public is the longer you leave it the bigger the problem.”

The society is running its annual bowel cancer awareness campaign this month and urging people to become aware of the disease risk factors and take steps to reduce the risk.

Disease risks include age, family history, diet, lack of physical activity, obesity, alcohol, and smoking.

However, the risk can be reduced by maintaining a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, being physically active, not smoking, and limiting alcohol intake.

According to the National Cancer Registry of Ireland, there were 2,485 cases of bowel cancer in 2013 — 1,463 were men and 1,022 were women.

Anyone concerned about bowel cancer can telephone 1800 200 700 to speak to a cancer nurse.


Frits Potgieter is General Manager with Muckross Park Hotel and Spa.You've Been Served: Frits Potgieter, Muckross Park Hotel and Spa

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