Bowel Cancer Screening programme is Saving lives


Bowel Cancer Screening programme is Saving lives

A clinician at Altnagelvin Hospital has this week praised the success of the Bowel Cancer Screening programme which has been running in the Western Trust area for the last year.


Dr William Dickey, Clinical Lead in Gasteroenterology/Endoscopy for the Western Trust an accredited colonoscopist for the screening programme based at Altnagelvin Hospital said: “With results available now for the first twelve months of operation we can see the real benefits of the programme for patients.”


Dr Dickey continued: “Bowel cancer is the second commonest cause of cancer death in Northern Ireland. There are 1,100 new cases diagnosed every year and over 400 deaths. One in every 18 people will develop bowel cancer. However, the outlook for bowel cancer is very good if it is diagnosed early. Furthermore, most bowel cancers begin as precancerous polyps (adenomas) which if identified can usually be removed easily before cancer develops.”


Patients aged between 60-69 years are invited to have their stools tested for blood through the Bowel Cancer Screening programme. If the test is positive they are invited to undergo further testing, usually by colonoscopy. During the first year, 182 people had positive stool samples and had further testing at Altnagelvin, one of three screening centres in Northern Ireland. Of these, 19 had cancer which was early stage in over half (eleven cases). A further 95 participants had precancerous polyps which were removed, preventing onward progression to cancer.


Dr Dickey continued: “By the time symptoms develop, only one bowel cancer in ten is early stage and more advanced cancers may need additional treatment like chemotherapy. The results from the first year of screening, which tests for cancer before symptoms, have exceeded our expectations. The programme is improving outcomes and saving lives. The high proportion of early cancers diagnosed and the identification and removal of precancerous polyps make it an extremely rewarding exercise.”