Action on Bowel Cancer Screening

  • Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in Ireland, after lung cancer.
  • Each year there are 2,500 new cases of bowel cancer and over 1,000 deaths from the disease.
  • In 2012, a national bowel screening programme, called BowelScreen began. The Irish Cancer Society donated €1 million towards the set-up of the scheme.
  • BowelScreen began by screening everyone in the 60 to 69 age group every two years, and the first round has been completed. In time this screening programme will be extended to all men and women aged 50 to 74.
  • The Irish Cancer Society is working to ensure that this age extension will happen as soon as possible.
  • Bowel cancer is often diagnosed late, and the screening programme can help diagnose cancers earlier so it is crucially important that everyone invited to do so takes part in the screening programme.
  • We are concerned that uptake is currently low. According to the latest HSE Performance Report from December 2016, the uptake rate was 38.1%. We are working with the National Screening Service to ensure there is an increase in the screening uptake.
  • The vast majority of people (95%) will have a normal home test result and be invited again in two years’ time. For a small number of people the test might show something that requires a colonoscopy.
  • The Irish Cancer Society monitors colonoscopy waiting times on a monthly basis, and is actively campaigning for short and long term solutions to reduce the colonoscopy waiting times.
  • We are still concerned that a distinction is being made between ‘urgent’ and ‘non-urgent’ cases in relation to colonoscopies. Many 'non-urgent' referrals do not have obvious symptoms and some people without these symptoms can end up being diagnosed with advanced cancer. 

Get involved

To find out how you can get involved in the campaign to extend cancer screening in Ireland, contact the Irish Cancer Society's Advocacy team on (01) 2310 500 or email

Anyone in this age range for BowelScreen who has not been invited can register online at or by calling 1800 45 45 55.

See more at:

Further updates will be made during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.