SEVERE delays remain in the provision of bowel cancer detection tests -- more than two years after the tragic death of Susie Long.
The number of people waiting for colonoscopies surged by 142 in just three months, while 21 patients have been waiting more than a year for diagnosis.
As of December 2009, there were 835 patients on waiting lists for colonoscopies in Ireland. However, in the subsequent three months, this figure had risen by a further 142.
Now, the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) has warned that more than half of all bowel cancer cases in Ireland are not identified until the final stages.
It said the delays are significantly increasing mortality rates from the disease.
ICS spokeswoman Kathleen O'Meara insisted measures must be taken to reduce waiting lists for the cancer tests.
She said the HSE needs to examine the matter "urgently".
Ms O'Meara "warmly welcomed" Health Minister Mary Harney's announcement that selected hospitals will deliver screening colonoscopies from 2012.
However, the problem of waiting lists needs to be tackled in advance of screening being delivered, according to the ICS.
The death of mother-of-two Susie Long (41) in October, 2007, highlighted the scandal of lengthy waiting lists for cancer patients.
Ms Long came to prominence with the emotional plea in an email to Joe Duffy's Liveline programme in January of that year.
She used the alias 'Rosie' for fear of upsetting her children, Aine (19) and Fergus (14).
However, she later spoke on the programme, revealing that she had to wait seven months for a colonoscopy to diagnose her bowel cancer.
Susie died at Our Lady's Hospice in Harold's Cross, Dublin, and was cremated at the nearby Mount Jerome Cemetery.
In 2008, there were 2,216 people waiting for colonoscopies.
A total of 1,108 of these involved late-stage diagnoses, while 966 people died of bowel cancer that year.
Ms Harney announced plans last June for a national bowel cancer screening programme by 2012, which would cut mortality rates by one third.
However, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) said funding the scheme through existing cancer resources was not feasible.
Ms Long was originally from Ohio in the US and later lived in Callan, Co Kilkenny.
She and her husband were both employed but said that they did not opt for private health care because of the prohibitive cost.
The second annual bowel cancer awareness week is now under way.