Test­ing spreads to catch a ‘killer’

The Southland Times - - NEWS - LAURA DOONEY

Hutt Val­ley and Wairarapa are the first two re­gions to get free screen­ing for bowel can­cer, as the ini­tia­tive starts to be rolled out across the coun­try.

Fol­low­ing a pi­lot scheme at Auck­land’s Waitem­ata Dis­trict Health Board that has been run since late 2011, a pro­gramme of free screen­ing will be im­ple­mented in stages, with the whole coun­try cov­ered by 2020, Health Min­is­ter Dr Jonathan Cole­man said.

Ev­ery year about 3000 peo­ple are di­ag­nosed with bowel can­cer, and 1200 die from it.

As of to­day those who are el­i­gi­ble for free screen­ing in the Hutt Val­ley and Wairarapa will be sent let­ters to let them know.

Dr Ash­ley Bloom­field, the Hutt Val­ley Dis­trict Health Board’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, said peo­ple aged be­tween 60 and 74 were el­i­gi­ble for the ser­vice, un­less they had were symp­to­matic, or al­ready un­der sur­veil­lance for be­ing at high risk of get­ting the can­cer.

Peo­ple tak­ing part would re­ceive a test kit in the mail, then they would send a sam­ple back and the process would start from there.

The test looks for traces of blood in the fae­ces. If there was any in­di­ca­tion of peo­ple need­ing fur­ther treat­ment, a colonoscopy would be ar­ranged.

The Hutt Val­ley was ex­pect­ing to do about 300 of those colono­scopies a year to start with, on top of the 1500 it did per year to check out peo­ple who al­ready had symp­toms, or knew they were ge­net­i­cally at risk of de­vel­op­ing the can­cer.

Bloom­field said bowel can­cer was a ma­jor killer of both men and women.

‘‘We know bowel screen­ing helps to re­duce early deaths, there’s good ev­i­dence for that.’’

In Wairarapa, the pro­gramme was ex­pected to pick up 20 can­cers in the first two years that may have other­wise gone un­no­ticed, Wairarapa DHB chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Adri Is­bis­ter said.

She ex­pected high en­gage­ment with the pro­gramme.

Cole­man said that all-up 30,000 peo­ple across both re­gions would be in­vited to do a test in the next two years.

Once it was in place across the coun­try, more than 700,000 peo­ple would be in­vited to have free screen­ing ev­ery two years.

Up to 700 can­cers were ex­pected to be picked up ev­ery year.

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