Bowel screening services in Ireland are under scrutiny after twelve cases of bowel cancer were “missed” at Wexford General Hospital.

A review at Wexford hospital found twelve patients were wrongly given the all clear and later diagnosed with bowel cancer, including one man who died of the disease.

Bowel cancer, also known as colon, rectal and colorectal cancer affects the digestive system. 2,500 Irish people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year. It is the second most common cause of cancer death in Ireland, with almost 1000 deaths a year.

Bowel cancer screening in Ireland

Bowel cancer screening is used to detect cancers in people who have no symptoms. Screening helps to detect bowel cancer at an early stage when there is an improved chance of successful treatment.

Bowel cancer represents a significant threat to the health and wellbeing of Irish people. On this basis, The National Screening Service introduced a national bowel cancer screening programme to tackle the issue. Recent coverage has shown these efforts to be inadequate in many regions with patients facing wrongful diagnosis in the case of Wexford General Hospital, or significant delays in the case of several other facilities.

Nearly half of Irish hospitals involved in bowel cancer screening fail to comply with the recommended three-month waiting times.

University Hospital Waterford, University Hospital Galway, St. Luke’s General Hospital Carlow/Kilkenny, Tallaght Hospital and Beaumont Hospital are among the hospitals that have breached the deadline. Donal Buggy, head of services at the Irish Cancer Society says “It is crucial that the Irish public has access to timely and quality diagnostic tests for cancer”.

The husband of Susie Long, who died in 2007 after a late diagnosis of bowel cancer has spoke out also, “We can’t have a system where people go so far with their cancers because timing is everything with bowel cancer”.

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Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dominic Rowley