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Although highly preventable and treatable if diagnosed early, bowel cancer continues to be Ireland’s second deadliest cancer.

In a bid to highlight Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, BowelScreen (the HSE’s National Bowel Screening Programme) is urging everyone aged 60 to 69 to avail of its free home test.

Professor Diarmuid O’Donoghue, Clinical Director of BowelScreen, said: “Bowel cancer is a big killer in Ireland. On average, over 2,500 people are diagnosed with the disease each year and over 1,000 lives are lost”.

He continued: “Bowel screening, with a simple home test, can detect abnormal changes in the bowel which can often have no signs or symptoms. These changes can develop into cancer over time.

“However, if they are caught at an early stage, there are more treatment options and increased chance of survival. This is why screening is so important. BowelScreen provides free home testing to men and women aged 60 to 69. The test is non-invasive, easy to use and can be done in your own home”.

The vast majority of BowelScreen participants will have a normal result and need no further tests, but will simply be invited again in two years. For a small number of people, the home test might result in further examination, such as a colonoscopy, roughly half of which will detect and remove pre-cancerous growths and ultimately preventing bowel cancer from developing at a later stage.

Professor O’Donoghue added: “BowelScreen’s latest figures show how the programme is saving lives – to date, it has detected 718 cancers and removed almost 19,000 pre-cancerous growths”.

“However, fewer than 40 per cent of eligible people have availed of BowelScreen in the most recent screening round – it is really important we increase this. This month, we are urging everyone aged 60 to 69 to check they are on the BowelScreen register to receive their home test – people can do this via our Freephone 1800 45 45 55, or by visiting www.bowelscreen.ie“.