Screening for bowel cancer has prevented over 6,000 people from developing the disease, the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) has said.
Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in men and the third most common in women. An estimated 2,800 people will be diagnosed with the disease this year.
The national screening programme, BowelScreen, has been running since 2012. It is available free of charge to people aged between 60 and 69, however over half of people invited to take part do not participate, leading to unnecessary deaths every year.
"Since 2012, this programme has prevented over 6,000 people from developing bowel cancer at all. Hundreds of others have had their cancer detected at an early stage when it was much easier to treat, with no need for chemotherapy, and many lives have been saved as a result.
"The test is free, easy and painless and could be the difference between life and death. It is a real shame more people are not using it," commented ICS chief executive, Averil Power.
Screening does not even require a medical appointment.
"It is a very simple at-home test. All you have to do is place a tiny sample of poo on a test stick and return it by freepost. This sample is then tested to look for signs of pre-cancerous changes that could develop into cancer," Ms Power explained.
Pat Fahey from Laois was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012. He was lucky that the disease was diagnosed early.
"I would urge anyone who gets a BowelScreen letter to do the home test. In the vast majority of cases the results will be normal. Some people might see the test as embarrassing or a bit awkward, but believe me, there is nothing embarrassing or awkward about doing a simple test that could save your life.
"Thankfully I am doing well now and feeling good. Taking control of your health is the best decision you will ever make," he said.
For more information on BowelScreen, to check you are on the register or to receive an invitation, call 1800 45 45 55 or click here.
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