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Bowel screening pilot finds cancers early

Hon Tony Ryall
Minister of Health

7 March 2014

Bowel screening pilot finds cancers early

More than 129 people who have taken part in the Waitemata bowel screening programme have been found to have cancer – with more than one cancer was found in some people.

Health Minister Tony Ryall says many of these people had no symptoms at all.

“This shows the screening pilot is detecting cancers at an earlier stage than you would expect in a normal clinical setting, where people visit their doctor because something is not quite right,” says Mr Ryall.

“Being diagnosed with cancer can be traumatic, but we know that bowel cancers found and treated early can often be cured.”

Figures for the first 21 months of the programme (January 2012 to September 2013) show more than 58,600 people completed a bowel screening test kit and more than 3200 with a positive result went on to have a colonoscopy through the programme.

A colonoscopy can identify whether a person has cancer or pre-cancerous growths called polyps.

Whangaparaoa man Denis King says he is encouraging friends and workmates to do the test after his result came back positive and a colonoscopy revealed a dozen polyps that needed to be removed.

The 57-year-old surfer considered himself bullet proof and had put off doing the test until his wife convinced him it was a good idea. Now his message to other is “just do it!”

The $24 million pilot will run in the Waitemata District Health Board area until 2015. Eligible people aged 50 to 74 are invited to take part. Results from the pilot will inform a decision on whether or not to roll out a national bowel screening programme.

“One of the big constraints is the workforce to do the colonoscopies, but there is a lot of work going on in this area,” says Mr Ryall.

“Already the Government has invested $1.8 million over two years for the national roll out of a programme to improve endoscopy services. We are also providing more money to DHBs to help reduce the backlog of colonoscopies and improve waiting times.”

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

ENDS

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