BowelScreen Publishes Report from First Screening Round 2012 – 2015 (Press Release)

(25 Apr 2017)

Cancer rate for men double that of women yet uptake of free screening low

Today BowelScreen – The National Bowel Screening Programme released its inaugural programme report, providing screening statistics for the first screening round of the programme’s operation (2012 – 2015). The release of the report coincides with Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, which runs throughout April.

Launched by Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, TD, Minister of State for Health Promotion, the report highlights that BowelScreen invited 488,628 eligible people to participate in the programme with a total of 196,238 people screened and 521 cancers detected. This resulted in a screening uptake rate of 40.2% and a cancer detection rate of 2.65 per 1,000 people screened.

Commenting on the first screening round of BowelScreen, Charles O’Hanlon, Head of Screening at the National Screening Service, said: “During the first screening round, 521 cancers were detected, three out of four cases at an early stage with a corresponding high survival rate. Almost 13,000 adenomas were also removed during the first screening round. Adenomas are abnormal tissue growths that can become cancerous at a later stage. The removal of adenomas greatly reduces the possibility of subsequent cancer development, making BowelScreen a truly lifesaving programme.”

“While there have been challenges in establishing a new population screening programme, this report demonstrates that BowelScreen is detecting and treating bowel cancers and pre-cancerous changes at an early stage. BowelScreen is saving lives. There is more we can do to learn and improve uptake rates as we move forward; however it is important to acknowledge the successes of the programme to date.”

Despite BowelScreen’s success at detecting cancer at an early stage, the report reveals a low uptake of screening with just 40 per cent of eligible men and women participating in the programme. The uptake for women was higher than men (44.1 per cent compared to 36.4 per cent) yet the cancer detection rate among men was double that of women.

Launching the report, Minister Corcoran Kennedy, said: “The first round of BowelScreen has clearly had a positive impact on the health of many of our people. At the same time, we must redouble our efforts to increase uptake rates for this free service, especially among males who have lower rates of participation but much higher rates of disease detection under BowelScreen. In that regard, I am delighted to see that the National Screening Service is working with a number of organisations to combat the lower uptake amongst men in particular.”

Professor Diarmuid O’Donoghue, Clinical Director of BowelScreen, said: “Low uptake of screening is worrying given bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in this country. We are particularly concerned about men, given that the cancer detection rate among males is twice as high as it is for females. It is so important that the men of Ireland take control of their health and do the test. It is a very quick, easy-to-use test that can be carried out in the privacy of your own home. It takes just minutes and most results are normal.”

Professor O’Donoghue continued: “Going forward, BowelScreen is committed to making continual improvements in the quality of the programme and in increasing uptake. Although, there remain a number of years before the programme is fully embedded and delivering to its maximum potential, it is clear from the results above that a strong foundation has been created, upon which to build further success.”

Sixty five year old, Christopher Fennell from Clondalkin, took the BowelScreen home test last year. He is enjoying living life to the full after the removal of many precancerous adenomas.

Mr Fennell said: “I did the at home test when it came in the post and after that, I got a letter telling me I needed to get a colonoscopy. I had to have it done twice as there were so many pre cancers. If I hadn’t done the free test, who knows what might have happened. I would encourage anyone who is invited to do the test.”

Anyone aged 60 to 69 can register for BowelScreen online at or by calling the Freephone number 1800 45 45 55.

Brief overview of performance, from 22 October 2012 to 31 December 2015 (first screening round):


  • BowelScreen invited 488,628 people for screening
  • 196,238 people took up the invitation, resulting in a screening uptake rate of 40.2%
  • Uptake of screening for females was higher than in males (44.1 per cent compared to 36.4 per cent)
  • 8,062 people attended for a colonoscopy
  • 521 cancers were detected, giving an overall cancer detection rate of 2.65 per 1,000 people screened
  • There were 355 colon cancers, 159 rectal cancers and seven cases of cancer where the site was unconfirmed
  • Over 71 per cent of all cancers detected were stage I or II, meaning that disease was detected at an early stage and therefore, easier to treat
  • In addition, approximately 13,000 pre-cancerous adenomas were removed.

The BowelScreen Programme Report is available to view or download here.  

- ENDS -



  1. BowelScreen was launched by the National Screening Service, part of the Health Service Executive, in October 2012 with the aim of offering free screening to men and women aged 55 to 74, on a two-yearly cycle.
  2. The first cycle or ‘round’ was carried out over approximately three years from 22 October 2012 to 31 December 2015, starting with men and women aged 60 to 69.
  3. All eligible men and women should check that they are on the BowelScreen register by calling Freephone 1800 45 45 55. Once on the register, over the course of the two year screening round, eligible men and women will receive an invitation to participate in the programme.
  4. A public information campaign promoting the BowelScreen programme will run throughout April, which is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.
  5. Some of the most common symptoms of bowel cancer are:
    • a change in your bowel habits such as going to the toilet more often or diarrhoea that lasts for a number of weeks;
    • bleeding from the back passage (also known as the rectum) for no obvious reason;
    • constant pain in your abdomen (tummy);
    • a lump in your tummy;
    • loss of weight when you’re not trying to lose weight.
  6. A number of conditions can cause these symptoms. If you have one or more of these symptoms, or you are worried about your bowel health you should see your GP (family doctor) immediately.
  7. To reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer:
    • be more physically active;
    • eat a diet with plenty of dietary fibre such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrain bread, brown rice and cereals;
    • reduce intake of processed and red meat;
    • keep a healthy weight;
    • limit the amount of alcohol you take;
    • take part in the BowelScreen programme when invited.
Is cuid den tSeirbhís Náisiúnta Scagthástála é BowelScreen BowelScreen is part of the National Screening Service
Teach Óstaí an Rí, 200 Sráid Parnell, Baile Átha Cliath 1, Éire King’s Inns House, 200 Parnell Street, Dublin 1, Ireland
Saorghlao 1800 45 45 55 Freephone 1800 45 45 55

Is cuid den Rannóg Sláinte agus Folláine i bhFeidhmeannacht na Seirbhíse Sláinte í an tSeirbhís Náisiúnta Scagthástála. Cuimsíonn sí BreastCheck – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Cíoch, CervicalCheck – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Ceirbheacs, BowelScreen – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Putóige agus Diabetic RetinaScreen – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Reitiní do Dhiaibéitigh.

The National Screening Service is part of the Health and Wellbeing Division of the Health Service Executive in Ireland. It encompasses BreastCheck – The National Breast Screening Programme, CervicalCheck – The National Cervical Screening Programme, BowelScreen – The National Bowel Screening Programme and Diabetic RetinaScreen – The National Diabetic Retinal Screening Programme.