12/09/2009 12:28 PM

Are the Irish dying of embarrasment?

A new report from the OECD shows that Ireland's five-year survival rates for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers are still below the OECD average.

All three cancers require screening which many people find embarrassing, particularly colonoscopies.

Doctors are concerned that Irish people are avoiding colonoscopies because they're embarrassed.

I know the feeling.

Any time the topic comes up (and boy do these topics come up in your 40s!) I am shocked by how few people I know in Ireland who have had the procedure done.

They look at me as if I have 12 heads. "There she goes," they say to themselves, "acting all American again."

But what is so American about hanging on to your health? In fact, it was a doctor in Dublin who advised me to get the procedure done once I turned 40 because it is already in our family. And so I did.

Colon cancer is the second biggest cancer killer after lung cancer in Ireland and smoking is clearly indicated in both.

Unlike lung cancer, colon cancer is 90 percent treatable IF CAUGHT EARLY.

In 2007 - the most recent year for which statistics are available, there were 2,174 new cases of colon cancer and 922 deaths.

By the looks of the figures, people are waiting until they exhibit sympoms before they get into the doctor's office.

Of course, by the time you're having symptoms, you're well past the early stage.

The OECD report follows another report from the Irish Cancer Society which shows that MORE people are now waiting six months or more for the procedure in Ireland.

There are now 852 people on the colonoscopy waiting list up.

The Irish Cancer Society is outraged and has blasted Health Minister Mary Harney for breaking her promise.

A spokesman said Health Minister Mary Harney had instructed the health service a year ago to ensure that patients needing a colonoscopy should not wait more than four weeks after being referred for one.

The HSE clearly needs to get its house in order but Irish people have got to start being more proactive about these tests.

It's clearly time for Ireland to launch a new screening campaign, "Don't die of embarrassment."

Before more people do.