Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Tuesday) welcomed confirmation from the Minister for Health, James Reilly TD, that the national bowel cancer screening programme will be introduced on a phased basis from the end of this year. Deputy Doherty raised the issue in a Parliamentary Question to the Minister.
“Bowel cancer poses a significant threat to public health and accounts for almost 1,000 deaths in Ireland every year. The introduction of a national screening programme will help with early detection, and in some cases will help to prevent the cancer from developing in the first place. In other words, it will save lives and should reduce pressures on our hospital system.
“The national screening programme has been delayed on a number of occasions, but I am glad to receive confirmation from the Minister for Health that roll-out will begin in the final quarter of this year, delivering on a Government commitment to introduce bowel cancer screening in 2012. Screening for bowel cancer has proven to be effective on two fronts; it provides early detection and therefore earlier and more effective treatment, and it helps to prevent cancer in the first place by detecting pre-cancerous growths such as polyps.
“It is planned that under the programme, free screening will be offered to men and women aged 55-74 every two years. Fifty per cent of cancers within this age group are found in people aged 60-69, so the programme will focus on this age group first. This accounts for about half a million people. The programme will also be the first to include screening for men.
“Fifteen candidate colonoscopy units have been identified around the country to support the screening programme and an academic partner has been identified to provide training to clinical nurse specialists.
I understand that planning is also well underway within the HSE’s National Cancer Screening Service to ensure the right services are in place to support the introduction and expansion of the screening programme.
“Minister Reilly should be commended for successfully delivering on this programme, despite severe cutbacks to the health service. Early detection and prevention are vital tools in our fight against cancer. I am confident that this new screening programme will lead to a reduction in cases of bowel cancer and an increase in survival rates over the coming years.”