Free bowel screening now available nationwide
The roll out of the National Bowel Screening Programme is complete, meaning about 835,000 eligible New Zealanders now have access to free two-yearly bowel screening.
Bowel screening is available to people, aged 60 to 74 year old, and is designed to detect bowel cancer at an earlier stage, when it can usually be effectively treated.
The programme roll out began in July 2017 with Hutt Valley and Wairarapa the first DHBs to join, and ended with the final DHB, Bay of Plenty, officially launching on June 10.
Over the past five years the programme has posted out over a million test kits and detected cancer in about 1400 New Zealanders. It has also removed potentially cancerous polyps (bowel growths) in hundreds more.
Those eligible get a test kit in the mail, which they complete at home and send back in a pre-paid envelope. The kit, about the size of a USB stick, is designed to detect tiny traces of blood in a stool sample, which indicates there could be a problem.
Screening is for people who don’t have symptoms of bowel cancer. Anyone with symptoms, such as a change to normal bowel habit that continues for several weeks or blood in their bowel motion, should see their doctor without delay.
A national multimedia campaign to raise awareness about bowel screening and encourage participation is expected to launch in July.