Cancer Charity Raises Screening Concerns
Irish Cancer Society says that there is no reason for any patient to wait more than three months for urgent test
The Irish Cancer Society is concerned that with less than nine months until bowel cancer screening is rolled out, that the waiting times for colonoscopies are not falling fast enough. A colonoscopy is the most effective procedure for the early diagnosis of bowel cancer and screening will put additional pressure on services that are already under stress. The Irish Cancer Society is seeking assurances that colonoscopy waiting times will be dealt with before bowel cancer screening begins in 2012.
"There is no reason that people should be waiting more than 3 months for a colonoscopy..."
According to figures obtained from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) which manages public hospital waiting lists, waiting times have increased by more than 1,000 people since March last year, despite the efforts by the National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) to prepare hospitals for the roll-out of bowel cancer screening. There are currently 1,854 people in Ireland waiting more than three months for a colonoscopy compared to 848 in March 2010.
Waiting times decreased slightly from February to March 2011 (by 48 people) but it is the upward trend the Irish Cancer Society has been witnessing over the last year that is of critical concern. The NCSS has been working hard to prepare hospitals from all over the country to prepare for screening but substantial reductions in the number of people on colonoscopy waiting lists has to be achieved before more people are added to the system.
Head of Advocacy and Communications at the Irish Cancer Society, Kathleen O’Meara said, ‘We are very concerned that the waiting times for colonoscopies are not dropping fast enough in advance of bowel cancer screening. There is no reason that people should be waiting more than 3 months for a colonoscopy and this has to be dealt with urgently in advance of bowel cancer screening. We are very concerned of the impact that these high waiting times will have on a screening programme.’
She continued, “We believe that unless the problem of waiting lists is tackled in advance of screening that we cannot have full confidence in the ability of our hospital system to deliver screening while not impacting symptomatic services at the same time. Clearly improvements have to be seen well in advance of the rollout of the screening programme however they are achieved,” Ms. O’Meara said.
Irish Cancer Society Nursing Services Manager Joan Kelly said, ‘We urge people who have been waiting for a colonoscopy in a public hospital for more than six weeks to take action by contacting their GP to see if they can schedule the procedure as soon as possible. If patients are waiting for longer than three months, it’s important to know that you can contact the NTPF (LoCall 1890 720 820) to discuss referral for a colonoscopy to a private hospital free of charge. If you are concerned about bowel cancer, you can also speak in confidence with a specialist cancer nurse by calling the Irish Cancer Society’s National Cancer Helpline on Freefone 1800 200 700.’
Read more about Bowel Cancer at www.BottomLine.ie or call the National Cancer Helpline on 1800 200 700.
The latest data from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland (NCRI) shows that there were 2,271 new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed in 2009, and the Central Statistics Office recorded 945 deaths from the disease in the same year.
The warning signs for bowel cancer include:
- Change in bowel habits lasting more than a month
- Bleeding from the back passage
- Regular feeling of trapped wind or fullness in the stomach area
- Feeling as though there is something left to pass even after bowel movement
- Pain or discomfort in stomach area or back passage
- Weight loss for no apparent reason
- Ongoing tiredness or weakness
Risk factors for bowel cancer include:
- Age - people over 50 are more at risk
- Having a family history of bowel cancer
- Having a family history of polyps (abnormal growths of tissue in the lining of the bowel)
- Having a diet which is high in fat and low in fruit, vegetables and fibre
- Lack of physical activity