A bowel screening pilot is now underway in the Waitemata District Health Board area. The pilot runs until December 2017.
Bowel screening is being offered to everyone aged 50 to 74 living in the Waitemata DHB area that is eligible for publicly funded healthcare.
You can find out more information about the pilot on the dedicated Bowel Screening website. Other leaflets about bowel cancer and bowel screening can be downloaded from the Bowel screening pilot resources page.
How the test works
People eligible to take part in the pilot get an invitation letter, a consent form and a free bowel screening test kit, with detailed instructions on how to use it. The test can be completed at home, and the sample sent to the laboratory for testing. Participants receive their results within three weeks.
The bowel screening test is an immunochemical faecal occult blood test (iFOBT), also known as a faecal immunochemical test (FIT). It can detect tiny traces of blood in bowel motions. Blood in bowel motions does not mean someone has cancer, but it can be an early warning sign that something is wrong with their bowel.
To do the test, participants collect a small sample from their bowel motion, using the test kit provided. Then they post the sample to the designated laboratory for testing. If blood is found in the sample, people are contacted and offered a diagnostic colonoscopy.
If no blood is detected in the sample, people are invited back to do another bowel screening test in two years, as long as they remain in the eligible age range and still live in the Waitemata DHB area.
No screening test is 100 percent accurate. There is a chance that cancer can be missed if it was not bleeding when the test was done. That is why screening programmes test people every two years. Bowel cancer may also start to slowly develop in the two years between screening tests. People should always remain watchful for the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer, even if they have had a negative screening test (where no blood was found in their sample).
Why New Zealand is doing this pilot
Bowel cancer is one of New Zealand’s most common cancers and the second highest cause of cancer death. Our death rate from bowel cancer is one of the highest in the developed world. In 2011, there were 3030 new cases of bowel cancer registered and 1191 people died from bowel cancer.
Bowel cancer may occur at any age, although 90 percent of cases are in people aged over 50.
International evidence shows that a bowel screening programme can significantly reduce the incidence of bowel cancer and the number of people who die from the disease, through early diagnosis and interventions.
The Waitemata District Health Board pilot is providing essential information that will help determine if a bowel screening programme should be rolled out nationally.
Information from the Waitemata District Health Board bowel screening pilot is helping the Ministry of Health prepare a business case to seek funding and approval for a proposed national bowel screening programme. To date, no decisions have been made if a national programme will be introduced.