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Plan for full rollout of bowel cancer screening programme

Plan for full rollout of bowel cancer screening programme – a positive decision

Bowel Cancer New Zealand welcomes the budget announcement today of a plan to fully implement a national bowel cancer screening programme. The nationwide charity for bowel cancer patients and whānau has been calling for the introduction of a screening programme since 2010.

“Today’s announcement will begin to turn around our world-worst bowel cancer death rates”, says Sarah Derrett, Bowel Cancer New Zealand spokesperson.

The budget announced screening will follow the Waitemata DHB region pilot and will introduce screening throughout the remaining 19 DHB regions over the coming 4 years commencing in 2017.

“If New Zealand had the same rates as Australia there would be 350 fewer deaths from bowel cancer each and every year in New Zealand” says Derrett. Australia is already a decade ahead of us in introducing a national bowel cancer screening programme.

“Bowel cancer death rates are reducing in Australia; meanwhile, in New Zealand, we have had no such improvement. Today’s decision will begin to turn this around – but it is disappointing to hear that the wait is 5 years away for a full implementation and that those aged 50-59 will miss out”.

International best practice is to screen those aged 50-74 years of age. While we wait for full nationwide implementation across this age range lives will continue to be needlessly lost.

Each year 1200 lives are lost due to bowel cancer in New Zealand. It is our most common cancer, killing as many people as breast and prostate cancers combined, and four times our national road toll. “Today’s announcement is a welcome, albeit long-overdue response to this national crisis,” says Derrett.

In the Waitemata DHB region, where the ministry of health have been running a successful pilot screening programme, more than 300 people have been diagnosed with bowel cancer as a consequence of screening, and thousands found with polyps or adenomas, which are can be removed before they become cancerous.

“All New Zealanders aged 50-74 years (where best-evidence supports screening) should have access to such screening,” says Derrett. Now the decision has been made we need to move swiftly and efficiently to provide all New Zealanders with screening as soon as possible”.

Bowel Cancer New Zealand (BCNZ) has been calling for the introduction of a national screening programme since 2010. If you have symptoms of bowel cancer please consult your GP. Symptoms include:

• Bleeding from the bottom or seeing blood in the toilet after a bowel motion;

• Change of bowel motions over several weeks without returning to normal;

• Persistent or periodic severe pain in the abdomen;

• A lump or mass in the abdomen;

• Tiredness and loss of weight for no particular reason;

• Anaemia.

More information on bowel cancer and BCNZ can be found at http://www.beatbowelcancer.org.nz

ENDS

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