More Than 2 Out Of Five Public Patients Waiting Over 3 Months For A Colonoscopy

The Irish Cancer Society has today expressed concern at the lengthy waiting times people face for tests for bowel cancer.  At the end of February, figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) showed that 4,184 people were waiting over three months for a colonoscopy.

Donal Buggy, Head of Services and Advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society, said: “45% of people were waiting over three months for a colonoscopy at the end of February.  The proportion of people waiting longer than three months has not dropped below 40% since February 2015, and we know that late diagnosis means worse outcomes and fewer treatment options for patients.”

“This problem is long past crisis point.  We simply can’t accept more than 2 out of every 5 public patients waiting over 3 months for an important, and potentially life-saving test, as the new normal.”

“Despite increased investment in outsourcing colonoscopies to the NTPF, which has eased capacity issues at important times, we now need more radical longer-term solutions.  This should include ensuring capacity for diagnostic tests, like colonoscopies, is made available in the elective-only hospitals recently announced as part of the National Development Plan.”

Mr. Buggy said: “Sometimes, those waiting for a test whose previously mild symptoms become more severe, may, in such cases of acute pain, be forced to attend an emergency department.”

A recent joint project between the Irish Cancer Society and National Cancer Registry showed that of the 2,700  bowel cancers diagnosed every year in Ireland, around 500  are diagnosed as emergencies. Of these emergency diagnoses, approximately three of every five are already at an advanced stage.

Bowel cancer is often very treatable if caught early. 95% of patients diagnosed at Stage I are alive 5 years after diagnosis, compared to 1 in 10 for those diagnosed at Stage IV.

The Irish Cancer Society is highlighting colonoscopy waiting times as part of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month in April. Every year in Ireland about 1,600 men and 1,100 women get bowel cancer in Ireland, and more than 1,000 people die from it.

The symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • A change in your normal bowel motion, such as diarrhoea or constipation.
  • Feeling you have not emptied your bowel fully after a motion.
  • Pain or discomfort in your abdomen (tummy) or back passage.
  • Trapped wind or fullness in your tummy.
  • Weight loss.
  • Tired and breathless (due to anaemia from blood loss).
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in stools.

We encourage people to be aware of the signs and symptoms and to take our online Bowel Health Checker: www.cancer.ie/bowelhealth or contact your GP if you have any concerns.

To speak to a cancer nurse on any aspect of bowel cancer contact the Cancer Nurseline on Freephone 1800 200 700, email cancernurseline@irishcancer.ie  or drop into one of our 13 Daffodil Centres in hospitals nationwide. For more information on BowelScreen call Freephone 1800 45 45 55 or visit www.bowelscreen.ie

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