Minister launches bowel cancer screening programme in Northern Ireland
The bowel cancer screening programme, which detects early signs of the disease, has been launched in Northern Ireland.
Similar programmes are being rolled out in England, Scotland and Wales. Patients are invited to complete a bowel screening test kit at home before posting it to a laboratory for analysis.
The test looks for tiny amounts of blood in their bowel movements that might be caused by bowel cancer.
About two per cent of those who take part in screening are likely to need further investigation and about ten per cent of these are expected to be diagnosed with bowel cancer.
The programme in Northern Ireland was launched by health minister Michael McGimpsey, who explained that 90 per cent of bowel cancers can be treated successfully if the disease is caught early enough.
"This is the first new cancer screening programme in Northern Ireland in 20 years, and it is the first cancer screening programme to include men," the minister said.
"This programme has the potential to reduce deaths from bowel cancer by 15 per cent, which would mean 60 fewer deaths in Northern Ireland each year."
Over the next two years everyone in Northern Ireland aged between 60 and 69 will be invited for screening, and after that will be offered screening every two years.
Mr McGimpsey also revealed that he eventually hopes to offer bowel cancer screening to all men and women between the ages of 50 and 74.
Chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride commented: "Screening is targeted at whole population groups because it is all about detecting warning signs before symptoms appear.
"I would urge everyone who receives the screening invitation to use it, even if you are feeling perfectly healthy. This test will prevent or detect your cancer earlier and could help save your life."
Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK's head of policy, said: "We are delighted that the bowel cancer screening programme is beginning in Northern Ireland. Research suggests that this screening programme could prevent around one in six bowel cancer deaths.
"The earlier bowel cancer is detected the greater the chance of survival. We encourage anyone who receives the screening kit to use it - it could save your life."