Free bowel screening tests on way for hard hit West Coasters

3:39 pm on 17 February 2021

The National Bowel Screening programme is coming to the West Coast with free tests for people aged 60 to 74.

lab technician using pipette

The West Coast has the third highest bowel cancer mortality rate in the country. (file pic) Photo: AFP / Science Photo Library

The Coast has one of the highest bowel cancer rates in the country for people in their 60s and close to half of those diagnosed with the disease die of it, according to the West Coast District Health Board.

The screening programme is already running in 14 regions and the Ministry of Health aims to start testing on the Coast in May.

DHB operations manager Phil Wheble said the programme was being rolled out gradually across the country to ensure health authorities are prepared for the extra investigations and treatment the testing will generate.

"Bowel cancer rates on the West Coast are statistically above the national average with 76.5 patients per 100,000 people.

"The region has the eighth highest rate in the country and the third highest mortality rate at 36.5 patients per 100,000," Wheble said.

Once the programme begins on the Coast, the national co-ordination centre will post out testing kits to people aged 60-74, provided they are registered with a general practice.

"We encourage all members of the community to register with a GP - it's free to register - and make sure their contact details are up to date," Wheble said.

Meanwhile, the DHB has set up a project team to manage the workload expected to flow from the free screening.

"The team are currently developing work plans to ensure we are ready to commence roll-out of the programme across the Coast, once our readiness to go live has been confirmed by the Ministry of Health," Wheble said.

About 1200 New Zealanders a year die from bowel cancers, one of the highest mortality rates in the western world, but the likelihood of being cured is more than 90 percent if the disease is detected in its early stages.

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