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Cancer is never a comfortable topic to talk about, but it is one that statistically will affect the vast majority of New Zealanders in some form. Whether that being personally diagnosed, or know a family member, friend or loved one being affected by it. Even with this in consideration, discussions centred around cancers that we sometimes consider “embarrassing” or “taboo” often fall by the wayside. An example of one such cancer is colorectal cancer (CRC) - this being colon, or bowel cancer. But it is important that discussions on CRC are brought into the limelight as it has the second-highest cancer mortality rates in New Zealand, claiming the lives of approximately 1200 people per year, and 3500 people a year are diagnosed with CRC. These figures are equivalent to the combined rates of prostate and breast cancer deaths, propelling New Zealand to having some of the highest rates of CRC in the world.

One of the positives about CRC is that if detected early, the rate of successful treatment is high. Detection relies on a simple non-invasive screening. The New Zealand government has recognised this, and over the past couple of years has begun to roll out free bowel cancer screenings for individuals between the ages of 60-75 years old. While this is a step in the right direction, the rollout process has been slow. The nationwide rollout is expected to take 6 years, as it is adopted one region at a time.

Currently, free testing is available for these district health boards:

Waitemata DHB

Hutt Valley DHB

Wairarapa DHB

Counties Manukau DHB

Southern DHB

Nelson Marlborough DHB

Hawke’s Bay DHB

Lakes DHB



It is projected that Auckland DHB will join this list late 2020, with the entire National Bowel Screening Pilot Programme being completed by June 2021

But what if you are not in these regions, don’t want to wait years, and are not in the 60-75 year-old age bracket? Bowel cancer doesn’t discriminate by region, and in regards to age, it does not only affect people over 60. While it is true that the risks increase in people over 60 (affecting about 1 in 100 people), younger individuals are still at risk:

The Highest risk is males, at 44 people out 100,000 per a year.

Females have a risk of 38 people out of 100,000 per a year.

1 in 1000 people between the ages of 35-40

2 in 1000 people 45 years old

3 in 1000 people 50 years old

5 in 1000 people 55 years old

Most countries that have free bowel screening programmes, such as Australia, offer it to people over the age of 50, whereas NZ is only targeting people over the age of 60. This leaves a significant gap in people that may need to be screened. looks to remedy this, by allowing everyone to proactively look after their health and not fall through the cracks in the system. No matter your age or where you live in NZ. This is achieved by offering a quick, free, simple online assessment to determine if you require a screening test to be sent to your home. The test is affordable and can be performed in the privacy of your own home. It involves taking a couple of samples of toilet water with the patented test card. This card is then mailed to a lab for processing, you will be notified of your results within 3 weeks, as well as if any further steps are needed to be taken.

All of this is done comfortably in the privacy of your own home, in your own time.

“There is no doubt that bowel screening saves lives. The earlier we can detect, the better the chance of successful treatment is” - Dr Alasdair Patrick, Head of Gastroenterology Department, Middlemore Hospital

So if you are worried about bowel cancer and may not have access to the facilities to put your mind at ease, perhaps it is time to take's bowel screening test.

© Scoop Media

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