Ministry of Health says breathalyser testing for bowel cancer could be a long way off

Wednesday, January 15, 2020 - 14:06

The Ministry of Health says news about a new breathalyser technology being trialled in NZ for bowel cancer, whilst potentially exciting, is somewhat premature, as the study is still waiting for funding and unlikely to begin until later this year.

The Ministry says it understands the trial will not be ‘going out across the country’, as reported, but will be confined to testing patients in the Capital and Coast District Health Board area

Dr Susan Parry, Clinical Director of the National Bowel Screening Programme, says new bowel screening tests are always being explored but many requirements need to be met before alternative technologies can be considered appropriate for use in population-based bowel screening programmes.“ This process usually takes a number of years. So, whilst this is an exciting development, practical application of any such technology could be sometime off. We will continue to monitor the results with interest.” says Dr Parry.

In the meantime, the National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP) continues to be rolled out across the country using the highly reliable Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT). This test can detect tiny traces of blood present in a small sample of bowel motion (poo) – which may be an early warning sign of bowel cancer. The programme is now available in 10 of the 20 district health boards, with four more joining in the first half of this year. Since it began in July 2017, the programme has detected hundreds of cancers and removed countless potentially cancerous polyps.

Find out more about the National Bowel Screening Programme.

Page last updated: 15 January 2020