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Prof Diarmuid O’Donoghue, Clinical Director of BowelScreen, said: “Bowel cancer is a big killer in Ireland. On average, over 2,500 people are diagnosed with the disease each year and over 1,000 lives are lost. But the good news is that bowel cancer is also one of the most preventable and treatable types of cancer, thanks to screening.”
“Bowel screening, with a simple home test, can detect abnormal changes in the bowel which can often have no signs or symptoms. These changes can develop into cancer over time. However, if they are caught at an early stage, there are more treatment options and increased chance of survival. This is why screening is so important. BowelScreen provides free home testing to men and women aged 60 to 69. The test is non-invasive, easy to use and can be done in your own home.”
The vast majority of BowelScreen participants will have a normal result and need no further tests, but will simply be invited again in two years. For a small number of people, the home test might result in further examination, such as a colonoscopy. About half of these colonoscopies will detect and remove pre-cancerous growths, preventing bowel cancer from developing at a later stage.
Prof O’Donoghue added: “BowelScreen’s latest figures show how the programme is saving lives – to date, it has detected 718 cancers and removed almost 19,000 pre-cancerous growths.”
“However, fewer than 40 per cent of eligible people have availed of BowelScreen in the most recent screening round – it is really important we increase this. This month, we are urging everyone aged 60 to 69 to check they are on the BowelScreen register to receive their home test – people can do this via our Freephone 1800 45 45 55, or by visiting www.bowelscreen.ie.
“The BowelScreen home test is free and only takes a few minutes. But it could save your life.”
Mr Keith Cairns from Terenure, Dublin, had no symptoms before doing the home test and was surprised to find that the results of his test were not normal. Soon after, he was contacted by BowelScreen to discuss a colonoscopy for further testing.
“A couple of weeks went by and I got a call from a nurse in BowelScreen. She talked me through the entire procedure and was very reassuring.”
Following a colonoscopy, Mr Cairns explains that a nurse “then showed me my scan and gave me the great news that all was ok – a couple of polyps which had been removed but otherwise all ok”.
This was the second time Mr Cairns did the simple home test and wishes to highlight his message to others: “With BowelScreen, the State is offering a free service to help people live longer. Even if something is found, the chances of recovery are good. This is fantastic. If I can do it, anyone can.”