IT will take three years to complete screening of all 500,000 people in their 60s who have been prioritised under the upcoming national bowel cancer screening programme.
The long-delayed programme will shortly begin on a phased basis, initially targeting those aged 60-69 years.
However, it will be the end of 2015 before all this group has been invited to avail of the tests, Health Minister James Reilly has admitted.
"It is anticipated that the first round will take up to three years to complete. Over time, the phasing of the programme will allow development of colonoscopy capacity to cater for the full 55-74 year age population," he said.
Around 50pc of bowel cancers are found in people aged 60-69 years, added Dr Reilly.