25 Nov 2016

Bowel cancer screening fast-tracked

11:47 am on 25 November 2016
Samples of a colon biopsy to be sent to a laboratory, at Diaconesses Croix Saint-Simon Hospital, Paris, France (2009).

Samples of a colon biopsy to be sent to a laboratory. Photo: A. BENOIST / BSIP

District health boards (DHBs) in south Auckland and Otago-Southland will roll out bowel cancer screening earlier than expected.

The Counties Manukau and Southern DHBs will start screening in the next financial year - along with Hutt Valley, Wairarapa and Waitemata, where a pilot would continue.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said Counties Manukau and Southern DHBs did more than 90 percent of urgent and non-urgent colonoscopies within the recommended time.

They had the capacity to start the screening programme, he said.

Counties Manukau had a high proportion of Māori and Pacific people in its area. Those groups had poor bowel cancer survival rates, "so it makes sense to roll that out as soon as possible".

Southern had one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the country, at 89 per 100,000 people. It had 1354 bowel cancer cases between 2009 and 2013.

"It makes sense for these two DHBs to be the next off the block."

Southern was originally to start in 2018-19 and Counties Manukau in 2019-20.

Dr Coleman would not give a target month for screening to start.

Counties Manukau DHB chief executive Geraint Martin welcomed the change.

It was "not about which DHB gets to go first", but to roll out bowel cancer screening as quickly as possible across the country - and improve bowel cancer rates.

The programme aims to catch bowel cancer early so treatment was more successful.

More than 700,000 people between the ages of 60 and 74 will be invited for screening every two years once the programme is fully implemented.

The early screening rounds were expected to detect 500 to 700 cancers each year.

Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Hawke's Bay, Whanganui, MidCentral, Capital and Coast, Nelson-Marlborough, Canterbury and South Canterbury DHBs were likely to start screening in 2018-19.

Bay of Plenty, Tairawhiti, Lakes, Taranaki and West Coast DHBs were set to begin in 2019-20.

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