National screening programme detects 200 bowel cancers

Too early to say if initiative is saving lives as not clear what stage cancers have reached

The roll-out of the national bowel cancer screening programme has been accompanied by lengthening waiting lists for essential tests

The roll-out of the national bowel cancer screening programme has been accompanied by lengthening waiting lists for essential tests

 

The roll-out of the national bowel cancer screening programme has been accompanied by lengthening waiting lists for essential tests, two reports indicate.

Almost 200 cases of bowel cancer have been detected since a national screening programme began last year, according to early results. However, it is too early to say whether the initiative is saving lives because it isn’t yet clear whether the cases detected are in the early or late stages of the disease, according to the HSE.

Some 45 per cent of the 250,000 people so far invited for screening have participated in the national colorectal cancer screening programmes, figures presented at the Irish Society of Gastroenterology show.

The vast majority of tests – 95 per cent – were normal while 5 per cent were referred for a colonoscopy.

Separately, a Health Information and Quality Authority report said there were more than 11,500 patients waiting for a gastro- intestinal endoscopy in July. Of these, more than 3,000 were waiting longer than six months. However, virtually all patients requiring an urgent colonoscopy are seen within four weeks.

Hiqa says the costs associated with delayed diagnoses of bowel cancer are significant. The setting of a threshold of treatment must avoid missing those who have a malignancy, while streamlining referrals so patients requiring urgent investigation are seen quickly.