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Concern over low uptake for bowel cancer screening

Fewer than half of those invited to screening for bowel cancer in the Western Health Trust area are taking part, new figures reveal

Bowel cancer is the second most common type in Northern Ireland, with 1,000 new cases and 400 associated deaths every year.

During the first two years of the screening programme only 13,834 of the 31,712 (44%) of patients invited to participate in the programme took part.

Only 6,445 of the 15,947 men invited (40%) and 7, 389 of the 15,765 women invited (47%) took part.

Western Trust gastroenterology and endoscopy clinical lead Dr William Dickey said that the low uptake of screening among men was particularly concerning.

“Bowel cancer is more common in men, with a lifetime risk of one in 16 compared with one in 20 for women,” he said.

The screening programme aims to identify bowel cancer early, before symptoms develop.

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Patients aged between 60 and 71 years are invited and if an initial stool test is positive they are |invited to undergo further testing. The outlook for bowel cancer is very good if diagnosed early.

Dr Dickey said: “By the time symptoms develop, only one bowel cancer in 10 is early stage. At more advanced stages, the outcome is less good and patients may need additional treatment like chemotherapy.”

Dr Dickey added: “The high proportion of early cancers diagnosed and the identification and removal of pre-cancerous polyps make it extremely rewarding for anyone who takes up the screening call.”

The gastroenterologist urged all patients who are invited to participate in screening to go.

The Western Trust will host an information stand at Foyleside shopping centre in Londonderry tomorrow and Erneside shopping centre in Enniskillen on November 29.


Since the introduction of bowel cancer screening by the Western Trust in April 2010, 479 patients have tested positive during stool testing at the screening centre. Over the last 30 months, 184 patients had pre-cancerous polyps removed, preventing the development of cancer. Of 39 patients diagnosed with cancer, 23 (59%) were identified early.

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