Thursday 18 April 2024
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Bowel Screening – Can we improve the uptake rate?

Bowel Screening – Can we improve the uptake rate?

Every year in Ireland 2,500 people get bowel cancer and 1,000 people die from it, making it the second most deadly cancer, after lung cancer. 

However, the number of deaths could be halved and 500 fewer people would die from bowel cancer each year in Ireland if people made changes to their lifestyle and availed of the free bowel cancer screening service, BowelScreen. 

We are asking you to raise awareness of the importance of this free life-saving screening programme in your local community, and encourage all eligible people aged 60-69 to take the simple home FIT test. It could save their life. 

BowelScreen completed its first round in 2015, inviting all men and women aged 60-69 to take part. 521 cancers were detected and 3 in 4 of these were found at an early stage, making it a truly lifesaving programme. 

However, the Society is very concerned that only 40% of people – 36% of men and 44% of women – eligible in the 60-69 age range are availing of the free screening service. Ideally the uptake rate should be at 50%-60%.

According to a leading Scottish bowel cancer expert, Professor Robert Steele, if all eligible people in Ireland took part in BowelScreen then bowel cancer deaths could be reduced by 30%

It is vital that the uptake rate is improved as in the future the programme is to be extended to all men and women aged 55-74. In the first instance it will be extended into the upper age category 70-74, where the incidence and mortality from bowel cancer is even higher. But this cannot happen before the uptake rate in the current age cohort is improved. 

As of your pivotal role in the community, you have a vital role to play in raising awareness of the BowelScreen programme and in turn encouraging uptake of the home test. 

The Society also asks that you please raise this matter with the Minister for Health, and ask that adequate funding is maintained for the National Screening Service, to enable them to take the necessary measures to improve the BowelScreen uptake rate. 

Anyone concerned can call the Irish Cancer Society’s Cancer Nurseline on 1800 200 700 or BowelScreen on 1800 45 45 55

If you would like any further information on this issue please contact Emma Browne, Policy Officer, Irish Cancer Society 01 2310 518 or