Free bowel screening in TV spotlight


Māori Television cameras were at Marton’s Māori health provider Te Kotuku Hauora where staff had organised for Whanganui District Health Board bowel screening project manager Ben McMenamin to give a presentation.


McMenamin was speaking to an audience of more than 100 – mainly kuia and kaumātua – about the dangers of bowel cancer; ways in which the risk could be minimised; and plans for Whanganui to join the national screening programme later this year.


The TV news report featured McMenamin giving a tour of the giant inflatable bowel that formed part of his presentation and stressing the need for a healthy diet, exercise and being smokefree to combat the second biggest cancer killer in New Zealand.


The free National Bowel Screening Programme is being rolled out progressively throughout the country.


The first district health boards to join were Hutt Valley and Wairarapa in July 2017, and it is planned that Whanganui DHB will join the programme this year.


By the end of 2019, Whanganui hopes to be offering free screening to men and women aged 60 to 74 years who are eligible for publicly funded healthcare. Any follow-up tests or treatment will also be free.


Once the national programme is fully implemented, more than 700,000 people aged between 60 and 74 years will be invited to take part in the screening programme every two years.


For every 1000 people who are screened, it is estimated about 50 will be positive, and approximately 500 to 700 cancers each year are expected to be detected once the programme is fully rolled out.


It is anticipated that 25 cases of bowel cancer will be identified in the first two years of the Whanganui DHB screening programme, and that many of these will be in the early stage.


There may be no warning signs that a person has bowel cancer, and screening every two years can save lives by helping find the cancer early when it can often be successfully treated. People who are diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer, and who receive treatment early, have a 90 per cent chance of long-term survival.


New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world, with more than 1200 dying from the disease each year.


Bowel cancer is more common in those aged over 60, and more common in men than women. Common symptoms include a change to your normal bowel habit that continues for several weeks, and blood in your bowel motion.


The screening is for people who do not have symptoms of cancer -- anyone with symptoms should see their doctor.


There is a service available for those considered high risk due to a family history of the disease, and GPs can refer patients to the Familial Gastrointestinal Cancer Service.