Wednesday 20 September 2017

Hundreds given all-clear for bowel cancer now being recalled for investigation

Wexford General Hospital
Wexford General Hospital
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Nearly 300 people who were given the all-clear for bowel cancer are being recalled for more investigations, after it emerged they may have undergone potentially faulty tests.

They had undergone colonoscopies, an invasive examination of the bowel, in 2013 and 2014 in Wexford Hospital.

Some 118 of these patients were part of the BowelScreen programme which offers free bowel screening to men and women aged 60 to 69 years.

The recall was prompted after two patients in October and November last year who had developed cancer between bowel screenings.

Both had colonoscopies in 2013 under BowelScreen.

It has led to the recall of the 118 patients who had colonoscopies under BowelScreen.

Another 163 patients, who had colonoscopies after being referred to the hospital with potential symptoms of bowel cancer such as bleeding, are also being offered new tests.

All patients were written to last month and 66 have already attended for appointments.

Wexford General surgeon Kenneth Mealy said while he acknowledged patients may be anxious about being called for an appointment, he wanted to assure them that “this is a precautionary measure and that everyone involved in this recall has been already contacted.”

The two patients, who led to the review after it was found they had cancer, are receiving treatment and have met with doctors. Their cases are being reviewed separately.

The recall was only made public after BowelScreen was contacted by the Irish Independent.

A spokeswoman for BowelScreen said it was unhappy with the absence of clear photographic evidence to show the very end of the bowel was seen in a number of cases.

“It is quite possible it was seen, but the programme is missing absolute confirmation that this was the case. To offer reassurance, we are offering a repeat colonoscopy as a precautionary measure.”

Mr Mealy said: “The BowelScreen programme saves lives. Nationally, it has already identified more than 200 bowel cancers since the programme started in 2012. A further 2,000 people have had pre-cancerous growths removed. There is no doubt that this free national screening programme is saving lives.”

The HSE’s information line will be available from 9.30am to 4.30pm today and from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday. The spokeswoman said cancers can appear in some patients between screenings.

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