Tallaght Hospital-Trinity College Bowel Cancer Screening Programme Provides Early Warning

Posted on: 30 October 2013

The Tallaght Hospital-Trinity College Dublin Bowel Cancer Screening team recently launched encouraging results from the second round of their programme, which is the first of its kind in Ireland.

The main finding affirmed the success of conducting a Faecal Immunology Test (FIT) and colonoscopy-based programme, which can detect early stages of bowel cancer in people with no symptoms of the condition. As with other cancers, the prognosis for patients is strongly linked to the state of the cancer when it is first diagnosed.

There are over 2,000 cases of bowel cancer diagnosed in Ireland every year. Early recognition can improve survival chances, whereas removal of pre-malignant polyps can prevent future development. The principle of screening for colorectal cancer using FIT tests relies on carrying out a test every two years.

Of the 10,000 participants aged 50 – 74 from the local catchment who were offered two rounds of screening over the pilot study, almost 5,000 availed of the opportunity. About 10% of these patients returned an abnormal FIT test and proceeded to a colonoscopy.

Regarding the newly published results, Deirdre McNamara, Associate Professor in Clinical Medicine at Trinity College Dublin and Interim Head of Clinical Medicine at Tallaght Hospital, said:  “In total, between the two rounds, over 700 screening colonoscopies have been performed and 21 colorectal cancers have been detected through the screening programme. A further 28 cancerous polyps were detected and successfully removed at the time of colonoscopy.”

Professor McNamara continued: “Perhaps even more importantly, 262 polyps with pre-cancerous changes were detected, which would have the potential to progress to colorectal cancer if not for the early intervention of the screening programme at Tallaght Hospital. Such patients have since entered surveillance programmes at Tallaght Hospital. This equates to cancer or polyp detection in 36 of 100 people undergoing a screening colonoscopy.”

The event was attended by the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly TD, Medical School staff of Trinity College Dublin, health care professionals, members of the hospital board, National Cancer Screening Services, Irish Cancer Registry, and by local participants in the programme. Also in attendance were representatives from the Irish Cancer Society, and Meath Foundation, which were major sponsors of the programme.