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Pilot Cancer Screening Programme: Too Little, Too Late

Pilot Cancer Screening Programme: Too Little, Too Late

As the Minister of Health today announced the introduction of a pilot screening programme for bowel cancer, Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa responded with concern and disappointment at the proposals.

They believe the pilot, which will only run in a small part of New Zealand, and which will not conclude until at least 2016, appears to be nothing more than a stalling tactic designed to save money.

Sarah Derrett, Chairperson of Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa said today, ‘7500 Kiwis will die from this disease in the time it takes to conclude the pilot, and maybe as many again in the time it takes to implement a nation-wide screening programme that all New Zealanders can access’.

‘That’s ten people, every three days - three times the national road toll. We can no longer ignore this preventable tragedy’.

‘Although we welcome any progress towards a screening programme, this proposal is too little, too late’.

‘Screening for bowel cancer is known to save lives. This has been understood for the past decade. The UK and Finland already have successful nation-wide screening programmes in place.’

‘We do not need a five-year pilot covering only one region of the country: New Zealand needs to act now.’

Bowel cancer is New Zealand’s most common serious cancer, affecting both men and women equally.

One in 18 Kiwis will develop the cancer in their lifetime, and we have one of the worst death rates in the world.

Only around 60% of bowel cancers are currently cured in this country – that’s a higher death rate than either breast or prostate cancer.

International studies have shown that a national screening programme could reduce the death rate by 15% and bring it in line with improved survival rates for breast cancer.

‘The Government’s long and drawn-out proposed pilot will simply delay effective action to save lives.’

Along with a national screening programme, Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa is calling on the government to address the urgent need for more colonoscopy specialists in New Zealand. Colonoscopy is an essential tool in the diagnosis and treatment of bowel cancer yet the procedure is not equally accessible across the country.

ENDS

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