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BowelScreen - The National Bowel Screening Programme is now available to men and women aged 60-69

A public information campaign is beginning which will also support the programme in addition to information leaflets, a Freephone information line and website

12 May 2014

BowelScreen - The National Bowel Screening Programme, a Government-funded programme is now offering regular free bowel screening to men and women aged 60 to 69. Bowel screening involves a free, quick, easy-to-use BowelScreen home test every two years while in the age-range. Information is available at

Professor Diarmuid O Donoghue, Clinical Lead, welcomed the programme saying "BowelScreen will save lives, making it a life changing public health intervention. Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer among men and women in Ireland with almost 2,400 new cases identified each year. It is so impressive that this simple BowelScreen test, which can be carried out at home, has the potential to reduce mortality from bowel cancer amongst the participating population."

Professor Diarmuid O Donoghue, Clinical Lead continued, saying "we are delighted with the early interest in BowelScreen and thank those who have already participated. However the continued success of the programme for both the individual and our entire population is very much dependent on everybody acting on their invitation. It is so important to take part when invited. The vast majority of people will have a normal home test result and be invited again in two years time, yet for a small number this home test may indicate something that requires further investigation, which is so important as if bowel cancer is found early, there is a much better chance of treating it successfully."

The BowelScreen home test looks for tiny amounts of blood in the bowel motion (also called a stool) which are not visible to the eye. Most people will have a normal result (95 per cent). In the small number of cases where a result shows traces of blood not visible to the eye, a colonoscopy will be offered in a screening colonoscopy unit in a hospital organised by BowelScreen.

The BowelScreen programme is being introduced on a phased basis and it is expected that all those on the register will be invited for their first screening by the end of 2015. In the meantime people in the age range can check they are on the register by contacting Freephone 1800 45 45 55. Once on the register:

  1. Over time they will receive an invitation and if they want to take part they contact the call centre with their GP (family doctor) details;
  2. Following this they will be sent a BowelScreen Home test kit in the post with clear instructions on how to do the test;
  3. On completion of the test, they return it in a special free, pre-paid envelope provided by the programme;
  4. They will get a letter with the results of their BowelScreen home test in four weeks.

BowelScreen is a quality-assured bowel cancer screening programme, based on international evidence that will over time offer free bowel screening to over one million people aged 55 to 74.
Information about the programme is available at: or from Freephone 1800 45 45 55. A public information campaign is beginning which will support the programme in addition to information leaflets, a Freephone information line and website.

BowelScreen encourages all people, regardless of age or participation in screening, to become bowel aware and to contact their GP advice if they have symptoms of  bowel cancer.

How can I reduce my risk of developing bowel cancer?

  • Take part in the BowelScreen programme when invited
  • Be more physically active
  • Eat a diet with plenty of dietary fibre such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrain bread, brown rice and cereals
  • Reduce intake of processed and red meat
  • Keep a healthy weight
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you take

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

Symptoms of bowel cancer may include:

  • bleeding from the back passage (also known as the rectum) for no obvious reason;
  • a change in your normal bowel habits that persists for a number of weeks such as diarrhoea, constipation or passing stools more frequently.

A number of benign conditions may also cause these symptoms. But if you have one or more of these symptoms for four weeks or more, you should ask your GPs (family doctor) advice.

- Ends -

Sheila Caulfield / Aoife O Sullivan, Communications, National Cancer Screening Service
Tel: 01 8659300


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