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Source: New Zealand Ministry of Health

Free bowel screening is available throughout the entire South Island from today with residents of the West Coast becoming the latest population to benefit from the life-saving programme.

West Coast is the 17th DHB to join the National Bowel Screening Programme, extending the service to 87 percent of eligible New Zealanders, aged 60 to 74.  The programme is expected to be fully in place across the country by the end of this year, 2021.

Clinical Director Dr Susan Parry says bowel screening is proven to save lives by detecting cancers early.

“Since bowel screening began being rolled out some three and a half years ago, more than 900 New Zealanders have had cancers detected. Many others have had polyps removed, which are growths in the bowel that can become cancerous in time.

“These people are parents, grandparents and older whānau members whose lives have undoubtedly been prolonged because of this programme.”

Bowel cancer is New Zealand’s second most common cancer with 3000 people being diagnosed every year and 1200 dying from it. The disease typically affects older people, which is why the programme is aimed at people aged 60-74.

Participants in the bowel screening programme are invited to complete a simple home test kit that can detect microscopic traces of blood in a bowel motion. The procedure is quick, clean and simple.

“I urge people who get one of these kits in the mail to take a few minutes out of their lives to do it. It just could save your life,” says Dr Parry.

Screening is for people who do not have symptoms of bowel cancer. Anyone with concerning symptoms such as a change to their normal bowel habit that continues for several weeks or blood in their bowel motion, should seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Additional information:

  • The introduction of a national bowel screening programme in New Zealand followed a successful 6-year pilot.
  • It’s being rolled out gradually across the country. This staged approach is designed to enable district health boards (DHBs) to prepare for the extra investigations and treatments that flow from a screening programme.
  • 17 DHBs are now part of the programme with the remainder (Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and Northland) scheduled to join the programme by December 2021.

View more information on the National Bowel Screening Programme

Media contact

Anna Kenna

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