Health Minister James Reilly has said the planned national bowel cancer screening programme will be introduced by the end of the year.
The Minister told the Dail that plans for the implementation of a national colorectal screening programme are at an advanced stage within the HSE-National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) and the programme will be introduced on a phased basis in quarter four 2012.
When fully implemented, the programme will offer free screening to men and women aged 55-74 every two years. As 50% of cancers within this age group are found in people aged 60-69, the programme will begin with this age cohort, the Minister said.
The screening scheme was originally planned for launch in January, and then July of this year, but was delayed.
The Minister said the HSE and the Special Delivery Unit in his Department had been working together to develop the appropriate capacity in colonoscopy services nationwide to support the introduction of the bowel screening scheme.
Approximately 2,200 new cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed each year, and it is a cause of death in around 950 people each year.
Dr Reilly was responding to a Dail query from Limerick TD Patrick O’Donovan.