Bowel cancer screening programme saving lives

Hands holding part of the free bowel screening kit distributed by the National Bowel Screening Programme.

Aotearoa New Zealand’s free bowel cancer screening programme is continuing to save lives, and has now detected over 2000 cancers.

Bowel cancer is this country’s second most-common cause of death from cancer, and finding it early gives people a much greater likelihood of survival.

National Bowel Screening Programme clinical director Dr Susan Parry says 2080 cancers had been detected through the programme – as of early August 2023.

“Just under a third of the cancers detected were at an early stage, when treatment is usually very effective. Only a low number of cancers found were at a very advanced stage.

“The programme has also led to hundreds of people having pre-cancerous polyps removed – saving more lives,” she says.

About the National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP)

The National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP) is FREE for people aged 60 to 74 across New Zealand. It aims to save lives by finding bowel cancer at an early stage when it can often be successfully treated.

You will be sent an invitation letter, a consent form and a FREE bowel screening test kit when it is your turn to be screened. The test is done at home, and is clean and simple to do.

If you stay on the programme, you will continue to be sent a test kit every two years from the ages of 60 to 74.

“Screening is so important because many people would otherwise be completely unaware there might be a problem. For some people, returning their test sample could quite literally be a life-saver,” says Dr Andrew Brant from Te Whatu Ora Waitaha Canterbury.

Whānau and friends also have an important part to play – in supporting and encouraging people to participate in the programme.

Bowel motions are a topic that some people find difficult to discuss. That’s why we need people who know them, to ask if they’ve received their kit and encourage them to return their sample straight away.

Don’t wait if you have worrying signs or symptoms such as blood in your faeces or unusual bowel movements that continue for several weeks at any age. Make an appointment to see your GP team or health provider immediately. Acting now could save your life.

The National Bowel Screening Programme will be extended for Māori and Pasifika people to those aged from 50 years later this year. This is because a higher proportion of bowel cancer occurs in Māori and Pacific peoples before they reach 60 (at approximately 21 percent) – compared to 10 percent for non-Māori, non-Pacific peoples.
Check with your GP that your ethnicity and postal address are recorded correctly to ensure that you get your kit when the extension for Māori and Pacific begins.

More information about bowel cancer

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world – with more than 3,300 Kiwis are diagnosed and 1200 people dying from this disease each year. It is the second most common cause of death from cancer.

The disease typically affects older people – which is why the National Bowel Screening Programme is aimed at people aged 60 to 74.

Some people may have an increased risk of developing bowel cancer. The risk factors include:

  • you have two or more close family members on the same side of the family who have had bowel cancer;
  • you have a close family member who was diagnosed with bowel cancer at a young age (under 55 years);
  • you and your family have a known or suspected genetic bowel cancer syndrome; or
  • you have had extensive inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis, for more than 10 years.

You can reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer by:

  • having a healthy diet high in fruit, vegetables and fibre;
  • exercising regularly;
  • stopping smoking; and
  • maintaining a healthy body weight.

Source: National Bowel Screening Programme.

Published on Wednesday, October 28th, 2020, under Uncategorised
Page last updated: 14/08/2023

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