Northern Ireland is about to carry out the first bowel cancer screening program for the first time, aiming to detect the disease as early as possible. Several similar programs are currently planned in England, Scotland and Wales. Patients are recommended to use a bowel screening test kit at home then send it to a laboratory for analysis. The test is searching for small amounts of blood in the bowel movements that might be resulted from bowel cancer. Nearly 2% of those who will participate in the screening program are likely to be asked to undergo further investigation and about 10% of them are estimated to have bowel cancer.
Michael McGimpsey, The health minister, launched the program in Northern Ireland. He noted that 90% patients suffering bowel cancers can be treated successfully when the disease is diagnosed early enough. He said "This is the first new cancer screening program in Northern Ireland in 20 years, and it is the first cancer screening program to include men," adding "This program has the potential to reduce deaths from bowel cancer by 15%, which would mean 60 fewer deaths in Northern Ireland each year." It is expected that by the end of the next two years, everyone in Northern Ireland aging between 60 and 69 will have initiations to undergo the screening program. The screening is to be repeated every two years. McGimpsey also added that he is hoping that bowel cancer screening would be offered to all men and women aging between 50 and 74.
Dr. Michael McBride, Chief medical officer, said "Screening is targeted at whole population groups because it is all about detecting warning signs before symptoms appear." He added "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." While Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK's head of policy, said "We are delighted that the bowel cancer screening program is beginning in Northern Ireland. Research suggests that this screening program could prevent around one in six bowel cancer deaths." She concluded "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."