Life-saving bowel screening now available in Wellington region

The National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP) was launched in Wellington this week, bringing free screening to around 45,000 people living in Kapiti, Porirua and Wellington city.

Capital & Coast District Health Board is the 16th DHB to offer bowel screening and joins its neighbours, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa, which were the first DHBs to join the national programme when it began almost four years ago.

NBSP Clinical Director Dr Susan Parry says the addition of the greater Wellington population to the programme this week is a significant milestone.

“Around 86 percent of eligible New Zealanders, aged 60 to 74, now have access to free bowel screening. This means we have an excellent chance of reducing the toll of disease and death from one of our most common cancers.”

Dr Parry says the launch of bowel screening requires months of preparation by DHBs to ensure they have adequate staff and faculties to offer the service, including treating extra cancers detected by the programme.

“We do not underestimate the work CCDHB has put into launching this programme and we know the community will benefit hugely. Bowel screening saves lives not only by detecting early cancers but also by removing polyps, small growths in the bowel lining, that can become cancerous in time.”

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. Dr Parry says when bowel cancer is detected early it is very treatable, with good outcomes. “People who are diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer, and who receive treatment early, have a 90 percent chance of long-term survival,” she says.

Dr Parry says the programme is aimed at older people because most bowel cancer occurs in people over 60. Since the National Bowel Screening Programme began in July 2017 it has found cancer in around 860 people, most unaware they had it.

“Typically, these are well people who are surprised and immensely grateful, as are their whānau and friends, that they took a few minutes out of their lives to do the test. I can’t emphasise enough, if you get one of our kits in the mail, please do it. It is clean and simple and could save your life!

Additional information:

  • The introduction of a national bowel screening programme in New Zealand followed a successful six-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.
  • 16 DHBs are now part of the programme with the remainder (Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Northland and West Coast) scheduled to join the programme by December 2021.

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