Free bowel testing is available across the South Island from today, with residents of the West Coast becoming the last population to benefit from the rescue program.
West Coast is the 17th DHB to join the National Bowel Screening Program, extending the service to 87% of eligible New Zealanders, aged 60 to 74. The program is expected to be fully in place nationwide by the end of this year, 2021..
Clinical Director Dr Susan Parry says bowel screening saves lives by detecting cancers at an early stage.
“Since the launch of bowel screening about three and a half years ago, more than 900 New Zealanders have had cancer detected. Many others have had polyps removed, which are growths in the gut that can turn cancerous over time.
“These people are parents, grandparents and older members of whānau whose lives have undoubtedly been extended because of this program.”
Bowel cancer is New Zealand’s second most common cancer with 3,000 people diagnosed each year and 1,200 dying. The disease typically affects older people, which is why the program is aimed at people aged 60 to 74.
Participants in the bowel screening program are asked to complete a simple home test kit that can detect microscopic traces of blood in a bowel movement. The procedure is quick, clean and simple.
“I urge people who receive any of these kits in the mail to take a few minutes of their lives to do so. It might just save your life, ”says Dr Parry.
Screening is for people who do not have symptoms of bowel cancer. Anyone with worrying symptoms, such as a change in their normal bowel habit that persists for several weeks or blood in their stools, should see a doctor as soon as possible.
- The introduction of a national bowel screening program in New Zealand follows a successful 6-year pilot project.
- It is being rolled out gradually across the country. This step-by-step approach is designed to enable District Health Boards (DHBs) to prepare for the additional investigations and treatment that arise from a screening program.
- 17 DHBs are now part of the program, with the rest (Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and Northland) to join the program by December 2021.