Life-saving National Bowel Screening Programme available in Taranaki

12 August 2021

The National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP) launches in Taranaki Friday 13 August, bringing free screening to more than 21,000 Taranaki residents aged 60 - 74.

Taranaki District Health Board is the 18th DHB to offer bowel screening as the programme is rolled out around the country. Since the screening programme started in 2017 around 380,000 people have participated and more than 950 have had cancer detected - most unaware they had it.

Taranaki expects to screen about 6,500 people annually and to find about 26 new early colorectal cancers in the first year of screening.

NBSP Clinical Lead for Taranaki, Dr Tom Boswell, says the introduction of bowel screening to Taranaki is a significant milestone.

"Taranaki residents 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 the second biggest cancer killer in New Zealand."

Dr Boswell says the launch of bowel screening in Taranaki has required months of preparation by the DHB, local GPs and cancer care specialists to ensure capacity for the projected increase in demand the service will bring.

"Bowel screening saves lives by detecting cancer at an earlier stage when it’s usually highly treatable and also by removing polyps, small growths in the bowel lining, which 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 Boswell says when bowel cancer is detected early it can have good outcomes. "People who are diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer and receive treatment early have a 90 percent chance of long-term survival."

While bowel cancer can affect people of all ages, the programme is aimed at older people because most bowel cancer occurs in people over the age of 60, Dr Boswell says.

"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’s 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 at Waitematā District Health Board.
  • The bowel screening programme is 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.
  • 18 DHBs are now part of the programme with the remaining two, Bay of Plenty and Northland, scheduled to join the programme by December 2021.

Last updated: Thursday, August 12, 2021

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