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National Cancer Screening Service Publishes Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Colorectal Screening

19 October 2012 - The National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) today issues a set of Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Colorectal Screening to support the imminent national colorectal screening programme. The primary goal of a colorectal screening programme is to reduce mortality from colorectal cancer in men and women aged 55-74 in Ireland.

The Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Colorectal Screening are the result of a collaborative process undertaken by representatives of each step of the screening process. The committee comprised four specific subgroups - Programme and Administration; Endoscopy and Radiology; Histopathology; and Surgery.

The National Cancer Screening Service convened an international expert peer review panel last year to examine the plans for the screening programme and the draft guidelines and to ensure the best of international evidence and standards are incorporated into the process.  

Majella Byrne, Acting Director of the NCSS said: “Similar to BreastCheck, CervicalCheck and the upcoming Diabetic Retinopathy screening programme, the NCSS must ensure that quality assurance is paramount and all the essential elements are in place. The publication of these guidelines is an important and positive step in advance of the introduction of the colorectal screening programme later this year”.

Quality assurance is the foundation on which a successful population-based programme is built. From initial invitation, through screening stage to diagnosis, surgery and treatment, every individual involved in each step of the screening process must adhere to the highest standards set by the programme. Organised population-based screening for colorectal cancer is a complex and a layered process.

Commenting on the guidelines Simon Kelly, Chairperson, NCSS Quality Assurance Committee for Colorectal Screening said: “To achieve maximum public health benefit from a population-based colorectal screening programme, every aspect of the service delivered must be fully quality assured. One of the main principles of developing quality assurance standards is to focus on the delivery of optimal outcomes for all users of the programme.”

The national colorectal screening programme, to be called BowelScreen, will offer free screening to men and women aged 55-74 on a two-yearly cycle. To develop the capacity to cater for the full 55-74 population, the programme will be implemented on a phased basis, starting with men and women aged 60-69. The programme will be expanded over time until the full 55-74 age group is reached.

The development and implementation of the programme is at an advanced stage.  Tendering, procurement, recruitment, accreditation of endoscopy units, ICT preparations and other elements are well underway. The programme will commence before the end of the year.

Live testing of the programme begins next week to ensure that IT systems operate effectively and that all the steps are easy to understand and follow for participants.

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Background:

Colorectal Cancer in Ireland

Colorectal cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ireland with in excess of 2000 cases each year and it is the second most fatal cancer.  By 2020, with our aging population it is estimated that there will be an increase in colorectal cancer of 79 per cent in men and 56 per cent in women.   Colorectal cancer screening aims to detect both cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions and over time will reduce mortality from the disease.

 

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