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Source: New Zealand Ministry of Health

Free bowel screening will be available to an extra 90,000 New Zealanders from today with Canterbury District Health Board joining the National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP).

Canterbury has the largest potential bowel screening population of any DHB in the country because of the proportion of people living in the region who are in the eligible screening age of 60 to 74.

With Canterbury joining the NBSP, and South Canterbury launching last week, free bowel screening is now available in 13 out of 20 DHBs. Just over 60 percent of eligible New Zealanders now have access to free bowel screening.

In welcoming Canterbury DHB to the NBSP, Clinical Director Dr Susan Parry acknowledged the huge effort the DHB had put in to prepare for bowel screening.

‘Canterbury has had more challenges than most in the past year but they have shown a high level of commitment in pushing ahead to get bowel screening underway.

‘Launching bowel screening in any DHB is exciting but when a larger DHB goes live you realise greater numbers of people will now have access to bowel screening in a part of the country that has a higher than average incidence of bowel cancer.’

In the first year of screening the DHB expects to find cancers in around 100 people. Dr Parry says many of these cancers will be found early enough for them to be successfully treated. 

‘Bowel cancer is most common in people over 60. These are parents, grandparents and older whānau members whose lives will be prolonged because we have found and treated these cancers early.’

Dr Parry says the nationwide roll out of the NBSP is going through an accelerated phase. The next DHBs to join the programme are Auckland (next month) and Capital and Coast and Waikato, expected early next year. Northland, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and West Coast DHBs will be next, with the nationwide roll out expected to be completed by November 2021. The provisional timetable is dependent on the DHBs passing their readiness assessments.

Dr Parry says with bowel screening becoming available to an increasing number of New Zealanders, there is a real opportunity to reduce the 1200 deaths that occur every year from our second most common cancer.

‘A bowel screening programme can only be of benefit if people participate, so I would urge everyone who gets one of our home test kits in the mail to do the test. It is quick and simple and may just save your life,’ says Dr Parry.

Media contact

Blair Cunningham
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