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Bowel screening pilot finds cancer in 60 people

Hon Tony Ryall
Minister of Health

8 May 2013 Media Statement
Bowel screening pilot finds cancer in 60 people

The bowel screening pilot at Waitemata District Health Board (DHB) has found cancer in 60 people in the first year of the four year programme.

Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in New Zealand and the second highest cause of cancer death.

“It is really good to see the impact this $24 million pilot is having on early bowel cancer detection,” says Health Minister Tony Ryall who announced the government’s investment in this pilot as part of Budget 2010.

“Cancers are being found in people who had no signs or symptoms that suggested there could be a problem with their bowel. And more than 60 per cent of the cancers detected were earlier stage bowel cancers.

“Being diagnosed with bowel cancer is very alarming for people – but when it is found and treated early, the outcomes for patients are generally very good.

Between January and December 2012, 54,450 Waitemata people aged between 50 to 74 years were invited to take part in the pilot and 29,522 screening kits have been returned and tested.

“The screening pilot’s participation rate of 54 per cent is already higher than Australia, who have been running the screening programme for a number of years, and almost on par with UK rates,” says Mr Ryall.

Of those tested around 2200 people were offered a diagnostic colonoscopy as blood was found in their sample - a possible sign of bowel cancer. More than 1400 people have had a colonoscopy at the at the pilot’s dedicated endoscopy unit at Waitakere Hospital.

Mr Ryall said the data collected in the first year shows a positive start to the pilot and gives us vital information on participation levels, cancer detection rates and the impact on health services.

“Towards the end of the pilot, the Government will analyse what has worked and what hasn’t, and make a decision about rolling out a national programme,” says Mr Ryall.

“One of the big constraints is the workforce to do the colonoscopies. Work is under way to gather information about demand and capacity in this area, which will give us a better understanding of future workforce requirements.

“The Government has invested $1.8 million over two years for the national roll out of a programme to improve endoscopy services.

“Colonoscopy waiting times around the country are variable and DHBs have begun monitoring and addressing patient wait times for services such as colonoscopies,” says Mr Ryall.

A copy of the bowel screening pilot results is available at www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/cancer-programme/bowel-cancer-programme/bowel-screening-pilot/bowel-screening-pilot-results/bowel-screening-pilot-january-december-2012-results


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