9,500 Tairāwhiti people eligible to do bowel screening test.

Roimata Mangu holds the tube used to collect sample for bowel screening

Health Promoter Roimata Mangu (right) is holding the small tube used to collect the sample for bowel screening. Sue Egan-Cunningham, (Colonoscopy Nurse Lead), Dr Sameer Memon (Clinical Lead) and patient and Intraoperative Clinical Nurse Coordinator Gretel McKenzie look on.


Tairāwhiti people aged 60 – 74 years can expect to receive an invitation to participate in the National Bowel Screening programme over the next two years.

The programme starts in Tairāwhiti this week; the eleventh New Zealand district to introduce the free screening programme. The first invitations to participate in the programme are expected to reach some Tairāwhiti people this month. Over the next two years, 9,500 people in this district will be invited to do the screening test.

Bowel screening can save lives by helping find cancer at an early stage. When identified early bowel cancer – which kills 1200 Kiwis every year – is treatable. Each year it is estimated that the screening test will identify around 70 Tairāwhiti people who will need further investigation.

The roll out will mean those  eligible receive an invitation to participate using a home testing kit and consent form.  The free test is quick, clean and simple to do at home. The test detects minute traces of blood in a sample of faeces (poo). This can be an early warning sign for bowel cancer, alerting your doctor that further investigation is required, typically through a colonoscopy procedure.

Bowel cancer, especially in its early stages when it is most curable, may not cause any symptoms, says clinical lead for the Tairāwhiti programme Dr Sameer Memon. “By screening for it every two years, we aim to detect these cancers and save lives.”

“Introducing bowel screening in Tairāwhiti has been designed to be as effective as possible right from the start. The concept of screening for bowel cancer is proven. Still, evidence shows that while it can save lives through early identification and treatment of bowel cancer, Māori do not gain the same degree of benefit. The screening programme, in its standard form, worsens equity of outcomes. Our team are dedicated to making sure this does not happen here.”

We have taken the programme basics - using a test to find blood in the faeces – and have looked at how we can ensure maximum access to this fundamentally lifesaving screening, says project lead Lynsey Bartlett.

“We now have a model that brings all the benefits of the national programme, with additional innovations to meet the needs of Tairāwhiti Māori, Pasifika peoples and those who live in places less accessible to the post and health services. Hauora Tairāwhiti is partnering with Ngāti Porou Hauora, Tūranga Health and the Pacific Island Community Trust to make this happen.”

“To make sure you don’t miss out on this lifesaving programme we ask that everyone updates their contact details with their GP Practice.  This includes mailing addresses and phone numbers.”

“To encourage participation in the bowel screening programme, several brave people have come forward to tell their story about how bowel cancer has affected them and to encourage everyone eligible to do the test.”

It is important to note that bowel screening is for people with no symptoms of bowel cancer, reminds Dr Memon.

“If you have blood in your bowel motion or an on-going change (4-6 weeks) in your normal bowel habits, contact your GP straight away. Don’t wait for the bowel screening test.”

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world. It is the second-highest cause of cancer death in New Zealand. Around 3,000 people are diagnosed every year, and 1,200 of those will die from bowel cancer.

For more information on the National Bowel Screening Programme, go to www.timetoscreen.nz  or to talk to someone about the bowel screening programme call freephone 0800 924 432.

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