03/02/2012

Extended Bowel Screening Programme Welcomed

The Ulster Cancer Foundation (UCF) has welcomed news that Northern Ireland's bowel cancer screening programme is to be extended with more people being targeted across all of the health trusts.

Deirdre Conlon, UCF’s Care Services Manager, said: "We are delighted that the bowel screening programme is to be extended to include people in all five local trusts who are aged 60 – 71. UCF is in no doubt that it will save many people’s lives. However, we would also urge the Department of Health to continue to work towards increasing the age range to everyone aged 50 – 74.

"We encourage local people to take up the opportunity to be screened when called to do so. The bowel cancer screening programme can detect signs of bowel cancer at a very early stage when there is a 90% chance that treatment will be successful," she said.

"The screening programme uses a home test kit and is aimed at people who do not have any symptoms. The test is very simple to do and can be completed within the privacy of your own home.

"In the meantime, it is vital for people to be aware of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer which include a change in bowel habits (diarrhoea or constipation) lasting up to six weeks; persistent bleeding from the rectum or pain or discomfort in the stomach area.

"If you are worried that you are experiencing any of the above symptoms it is important that you go to your GP. If you have any concerns about bowel cancer please call UCF’s freephone cancer information and support helpline on 0800 783 3339."

In addition, the risk of bowel cancer can be reduced by adopting a healthy lifestyle, eating a high fibre diet with less saturated fat, stopping smoking, reducing alcohol consumption and taking regular exercise.

Bowel cancer kills over 400 people in Northern Ireland each year, and there are 1,000 new cases annually. After lung cancer, it is the second most common cancer in Northern Ireland.

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, can occur at any age but is primarily a cancer of the over 60s. Risk of the disease increases if there is a family history, but over 75% of patients have had no previous bowel condition or family link. The rates of bowel cancer in Northern Ireland are similar to the incidence of breast cancer. Every year around 1,000 people will be newly diagnosed with the disease with approximately 430 deaths.

(GK/DW)

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