Number of bowel cancer diagnoses set to increase

People urged to know signs of disease
  • Deborah Condon

An estimated 2,800 people will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in Ireland this year, however this figure is expected to jump to 5,700 per year by 2045, the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) has warned.

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and the ICS is trying to raise awareness of the disease, which currently kills around 1,000 people annually. The number of people developing the disease is projected to increase by the National Cancer Registry, as a result of Ireland's growing and ageing population.

The ICS is calling on people to check their bowel health by using its online Bowel Health Checker. Bowel cancer most commonly occurs in people over the age of 60 and is often diagnosed in the later stages.

"However, if bowel cancer is caught early, it is extremely treatable. Recent figures showed us that 95% of people diagnosed at stage 1 were alive five years later. That is good news, but this is not the case for people diagnosed with stage 3 and 4 bowel cancer. We need to work towards increasing the number of people diagnosed in the early stages," commented ICS cancer support manager, Joan Kelly.

She said that in order for the disease to be detected earlier, people need to be aware of the main signs and symptoms, such as changes in bowel motions, blood in the stools or pain in the abdomen.

"We would encourage anyone who might be interested in checking their bowel health to complete our easy-to-do online Bowel Health Checker, which can be found at It's a quick questionnaire and includes a letter which can be brought to your GP," Ms Kelly noted.

Meanwhile, she said that another important way of increasing diagnoses is by attending bowel screening when called.

"The majority of bowel cancer cases occur in men, but only 37% of eligible males have availed of the State's free screening programme, BowelScreen, compared to 46% of women. It is vital that people avail of this free, life-saving service that is offered to everyone aged between 60 and 69 years," she noted.

Ms Kelly added that a healthy lifestyle and a diet high in fibre and wholegrains can also help to reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer.

For more information on BowelScreen, click here

To speak to a cancer nurse about bowel cancer, contact the ICS's Cancer Nurseline on 1800 200 700, email or drop into one of the society's 13 Daffodil Centres in major hospitals nationwide.

Symptoms of bowel cancer include:

-A change in your normal bowel motion, such as diarrhoea or constipation
-A feeling that you have not emptied your bowel fully after a motion
-Pain or discomfort in your abdomen (tummy) or back passage
-Trapped wind or fullness in your tummy
-Weight loss.
-Tired and breathless (due to anaemia from blood loss)
-Rectal bleeding or blood in the stools.

The risk of bowel cancer can be reduced by:

-Eating a healthy diet, limiting the amount of red and processed meat that you consume
-Maintaining a healthy body weight
-Increasing the amount of fibre you eat, including at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day
-Being physically active for at least 30 minutes every day
-Not smoking.
-Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink
-Being aware of your family history. If a member of your family has or had bowel cancer, speak to your doctor about the risk and the need for screening.


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