Bowel cancer tested, diagnosed and treated

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Good result . . . Dunedin man Tony Cummings is happy and healthy after having bowel cancer detected and successfully treated through the screening programme. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Dunedin man Tony Cummings is back to “business as usual” after being diagnosed with bowel cancer through a screening test and successfully treated.

Mr Cummings, who runs catering company Barbeque Bill and is heavily involved in the Spirit of Adventure Trust, was one of 34 people in Otago and Southland found to have bowel cancer in the first six months of the bowel screening programme.

Having had two brothers die of cancer over the years, Mr Cummings knows that early detection is best, and was happy to do the screening test.

“I was very surprised to find that it was positive, and also how quick it all happened,” he said.

“I’ve been very impressed with the rate that everybody got on to it.”

A colonoscopy at Dunedin Hospital and a biopsy showed early stage cancer, which was in a good position to be dealt with.

Less than a month later, Mr Cummings had surgery to remove the cancer, his bowel was reconnected and it was “business as usual”.

“It worked really well. Three days after that I was feeling great, I was bouncing off the walls. It was brilliant.”

The National Bowel Screening Programme was launched in the Southern district six months ago.

Since then, more than 14,000 screening kits have been sent to Southern residents, with 68% of the kits sent out in April and May already returned for testing, 6% higher than the national target of 62%.

Bowel Screening Programme clinical leader Dr Jason Hill said one case of bowel cancer was being identified in the Southern district each week through the programme.

for Southern residents, particularly for Maori, as well as their families, whanau and communities,” Dr Hill said.

“As well as being able to diagnose and treat early stage bowel cancer through the programme, we’re also finding that many patients have polyps which can, over time, turn into bowel cancer.”

Removing them would have a “massive impact” on reducing the future burden of bowel cancer in the district.

Dr Hill attributes much of the programme’s success to the way it had been embraced by the community and health providers.

Mr Cummings has a simple message for people who receive the test kits.

“This is an incredibly common cancer; the success rate from doing the operation early is immense,” he said.

“My message to everyone is go and do the bloody test.

“If you get a positive result, follow it through immediately – some people call cancer a rust, and rust doesn’t sleep.”