16 Nov 2020

Bowel screening programme 'life changing' for Whanganui families

4:40 pm on 16 November 2020

The first year in the national bowel screening programme has been life changing for 11 Whanganui people who have had cancers detected, Whanganui District Health Board says.

Bowel Cancer stock photo

Photo: 123RF

The DHB distributed about 5000 self-test kits to people aged between 60 and 74-years-old in the district over the past 12 months.

More than 3000 people opted to take part in the programme, a participation rate of 67 percent - the national target is 60 percent - and among that group 11 cancers were detected.

Project lead Ben McMenamin said "this work had been life changing" for those families.

"Our team has worked hard to promote bowel screening and encourage people to complete their kits. We're very heartened to see the impact that screening is already having in our communities."

Māori and Pasifika participation rates of 67 percent and 71 percent respectively were also among the best stats in the country.

"This is important because the more people who participate, the more cancers we find. If not for the screening programme, these cancers would not have shown up for some years. We found them early, resulting in much better outcomes for those people," McMenamin said.

Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in New Zealand, claiming 1200 Kiwi lives every year.

People who are diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer, and who receive treatment early, have a 90 percent chance of long-term survival.

McMenamin said as well as detecting 11 cancers, the programme had resulted in 130 colonoscopies and five CT scans being performed, and 61 people being put on a surveillance list after being identified as having a higher risk of developing bowel cancer.

He stressed the importance of people completing the simple test which was done at home and detects minute traces of blood in a sample of faeces that can be an early warning sign of bowel cancer.

After the test is checked, people were notified if further investigation was required, typically a colonoscopy. Follow-up investigation and treatment were all free.

McMenamin said a positive test result did not necessarily mean a person had cancer, but it did mean further investigation was needed.

Further information about the bowel screening test is available by calling 0800 924 432.

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