Karin learns first-hand the value of bowel screening

Karin Milliken was referred for a colonoscopy after returning an abnormal bowel screening test, and had growths detected during a colonoscopy. She's urging people to do the National Bowel Screening Programme test when they're invited.

"The process is so easy, I'd urge everyone who is eligible to take part."

As an experienced nurse, Karin Milliken knows a lot about health, but she had no idea her own health could be under threat from bowel cancer.

Karin lives in the Waitemata District Health Board area and was eligible for free bowel screening through their Bowel Screening Pilot programme.

"The test kit is sent to you in the mail with very clear instructions. It’s easy to do at home, and isn’t invasive," says Karin.

Over four years she had two screening tests. The first test was negative but the second, two years later, came back positive. The West Auckland grandmother was then sent for a colonoscopy, a procedure where a tiny camera is used to examine the bowel.

"I was stunned to be told they found two polyps that were removed during the procedure; but very thankful that they’d been picked up.

“As a nurse, I know that polyps can become cancerous over time so was glad to get rid of them.

“The really scary thing is that I had no symptoms and, if it wasn’t for the screening programme, I may not have found out about the polyps until they’d developed into something more serious."

Bowel cancer is the second highest cause of cancer death in New Zealand, and kills more than 1200 people a year.  Karin says as a health professional she knows the figures, but her personal experience really brought the message home.

“I appreciate even more now the need to be vigilant, particularly once you are over 60. I am so happy screening is to be offered throughout the country and that potentially cancerous growths like mine can be found and removed. The process is so easy, I'd urge everyone who is eligible to take part."

Karin encourages anyone who has questions or concerns about the screening test to talk to their GP, practice nurse or another medical professional. People can also phone the freephone Bowel Screening line: 0800 924 432.

Page last updated: 21 July 2017