District health board to screen for bowel cancer


The Southern District Health Board Bowel Screening Programme is scheduled to roll out across the district from April.

In the next two years, more than 51,000 men and women aged 60 to 74 who are eligible will be sent an invitation letter, a consent form, and a free bowel screening test kit through the mail.

The kit is quick, easy and simple to do by yourself at home and is returned by post.

Screening will be repeated every two years for people until the age of 74.

Screening will be free for those who are eligible, along with any follow-up tests or treatment.

Eligible people are those who are entitled to receive free public health care, and who do not have any symptoms of bowel cancer, have not had a colonoscopy within the past five years, are not on a bowel surveillance programme and are not receiving treatment for bowel cancer.

After piloting the bowel screening programme at Waitemata DHB, the Ministry of Health announced a national rollout of the programme in 2016.

The SDHB will be the first in the South Island to offer screening.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world and the southern district has some of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the country.

The New Zealand cancer registry shows about 320 lower gastrointestinal cancers are diagnosed by the SDHB per year.

It is anticipated 86 cases of bowel cancer will be identified in the first two years of the SDHB programme, and that many of these will be in the early stage.

A persistent change in bowel habit – diarrhoea, constipation, or smaller more frequent bowel movements.

A change in appearance of bowel movements.

Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding.

Frequent gas pains, cramps, or a feeling of fullness in the bowel or rectum.

Unexplained anaemia causing tiredness, weakness, or weight loss.

Rectal or anal pain or lump.

Abdominal pain or swelling.

If you experience any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, speak to your doctor.