Two years after its inception, the Southern District Health Board’s (SDHB) national bowel screening programme has already detected 177 cases of bowel cancer across the district. A further 1,267 people have had polyps removed, many of which could have developed into cancer over time.
“These numbers reflect significant, real-life impacts,” said the programme’s clinical leader, Dr Jason Hill. “They are reflective of lives saved and families spared losing loved ones. This programme will have long-term positive effects – by detecting and treating cancers early, we will reduce the future bowel cancer burden in our community.”
The programme’s second anniversary passed in late April, a milestone unmarked at the time due to the Covid-19 lockdown. To date, about 55,000 test kits have been sent out to Southern residents, and approximately 37,500 of those have been returned.
The programme, which is free for those aged 60-74 who are eligible for publicly-funded health care, was paused during the COVID-19 response, but is now resuming regular activity.
“We’re advising those who received test kits in the mail before or during lockdown, to complete and return their kits as soon as possible,” said Southern DHB programme manager, Emma Bell. “The test kits have a six month expiry date, so it’s important they’re sent back soon.”
The National Bowel Screening Programme is an excellent way to detect bowel cancer earlier, with 94 per cent of those returning a positive test currently being offered a colonoscopy within the national target timeframe of 45 days. Of those with positive tests, approximately 8 per cent will have cancer.
According to the Ministry of Health, those who receive early treatment have a 90 per cent chance of long-term survival.
“We know sometimes people put off doing the test because they are scared of getting a positive result, but early diagnosis increases the chances of having straightforward and successful treatment,” said Hill.
Visit timetoscreen.nz for more information about the National Bowel Screening Programme.
Read Edition 980 of the Wānaka Sun here.