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Cancer screening hit by swine flu

6th November 2009

The swine flu outbreak has had a knock-on effect on bowel cancer screening in Northern Ireland.

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The screening programme due to start in December has been delayed because funding has been diverted from it towards coping with swine flu.

With 400 people dying every year from bowel cancer in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Cancer Foundation has expressed its disappointment at the decision.

The condition is the second most common cancer death in men and the third in women prompting the Department of Health to introduce screening for people aged 60-69 to try to reduce cases by 10% before 2011.

However, in Northern Ireland the programme has been postponed until April.

Liz Atkinson from the Ulster Cancer Foundation said: "Those of us involved in the cancer network in Northern Ireland had been looking forward to the start of this screening.

"It is much needed here as early detection can mean saving many lives. Now, Northern Ireland is the only region UK without one - so yet again we are lagging behind."

With the swine flu outbreak having cost £64 million so far in Northern Ireland, health trusts are having to divert funds from other areas or use cash from their unspent budgets.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health said despite the additional funding there remained difficult decisions ahead for the health service, including delays to much needed service improvements.

Bowel cancer affects 35,600 people every year in the UK but if it is caught early and treated, it is curable.

 

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