Put it by the loo, don’t put it off - BowelScreen urges people to complete and return screening kits

      register online or freephone: 1800 45 45 55 for at-home test

To mark the beginning of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month today (1 April, 2023), BowelScreen, Ireland’s national bowel cancer screening programme, is reminding people to complete the simple at-home test that could save their life.

BowelScreen, part of the National Screening Service, offers a free at-home test to people aged from 60-69. The test involves taking a small sample of your stool (poo) using a Faecal Immunochemical Test or FIT kit that is sent to your home, and returned to BowelScreen in the post. It’s done in the privacy of your own bathroom and is so straightforward that among those that do the test, recent BowelScreen figures show that 90% of people will do it again when invited.

Bowel cancer screening can prevent cancer developing by removing changes in your bowel that could lead to the disease. Recent data shows it can also lead to cancer being detected at an early stage, before symptoms begin, when it can be easier to treat.*

However, approximately 20% of people who receive a test don’t complete it, putting it to the back of their minds – and their cupboard – after it arrives through the letterbox. That’s why we’re asking people to make one simple change this Bowel Cancer Awareness Month – put it by the loo, don’t put it off, so the next time you go, you can get it done.

Around 2,600 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in Ireland every year. It’s the second most common invasive cancer in men and third in women - with a higher incidence than cervical cancer.**

Common reasons for not taking the test are:

  • Embarrassment
  • Being put off by the nature of the test
  • Fear of finding something wrong **

Maria Power, 62, a social scientist who works with Community Consultants, in county Waterford, understands these reasons, having already had breast cancer diagnosed through screening she says BowelScreen offers another valuable opportunity to protect her health.  Maria says: “I can’t even remember doing my last test, it was that straightforward. I get all my screening tests done as soon as they come up. I view it as part of my healthcheck routine – visit the dentist, get my eyes checked, get my screening tests out of the way. It’s all part of making sure I’m in reasonably good health.

“I know that some people might shy away from doing it because they fear the worst. I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer through BreastCheck in 2013 and was treated with a lumpectomy and radiotherapy. I know that it’s much better to catch something early, rather than when it’s advanced and the treatment is much more invasive.

“I know women diagnosed with bowel cancer at a late stage who have been through surgery. That motivates me to talk to other women about bowel screening and to encourage them to ask for a test and get it done.”

As for the test itself, which some people can find off-putting, Maria says: “No one wants to think about their stools. But it’s very straightforward with simple instructions, and it’s quick. Just do it, wash your hands, send it off… and get on with things.

“Most people will get a negative result like me, but if something does need to be checked it’s much better to know sooner rather than later. That’s why we have screening.”

Clinical Director of BowelScreen Professor Pádraic Mac Mathuna said: “This Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, we want to motivate people to take the test as part of their normal healthcare routine in the same way they might visit the dentist or optician for a regular check-up.

“Most people will have a negative screening test. For those who require further tests and have polyps removed the programme offers an important cancer prevention tool. Each polyp removal could prevent a cancer from developing. For those whose cancer is found via screening, most won’t have had any symptoms and it is usually diagnosed at an earlier stage when it can be easier to treat and to cure. BowelScreen is free, you can do it at home, so please consider taking just a few minutes out of your day to take the test to make a long-term positive impact on your health.”

If you’re aged between 60 and 69 and have yet to receive an invitation to take part in BowelScreen or you have previously been invited but didn’t complete the FIT kit, contact us. You can register online or freephone: 1800 45 45 55. You can also contact us and update any of your personal details by sending an email to info@bowelscreen.ie.

Last updated on: 31 / 03 / 2023