DIY cancer screening a life saver
Ray Glover is glad he overcame his own pride when it came to retaking a home bowel cancer test, because it may have saved his life.
The results from his first free home screening or faecal occult blood test (FOBT) kit, obtained though the Health Ministry’s National Bowel Screening Programme, were inconclusive as his sample was contaminated. He thought twice about taking the test again.
He described the process of collecting the stool sample, which had to be sent away to be tested, as ‘‘quite undignified’’.
‘‘I thought about chucking [the second test] in the bin. I was humming and harring about whether to do it again [but] I thought they’ve had the courtesy to send another one so I decided to use it.’’
By nearly throwing away the second kit, he could have thrown away his life, he said. The results raised alarm bells and it was soon discovered he had a tumour and polyps in his bowel.
Following recent surgery to remove the cancer, Glover was recovering well and said the FOBT kit had almost certainly prolonged his life.
The National Bowel Screening Programme began as a pilot at the Waitemata District Health Board in 2011, and is now also offered at the Hutt Valley, Wairarapa and Southern DHBs. The programme will be available across all health boards by 2021.
Dr Susan Parry, the Health Ministry’s clinical director of the National Bowel Screening Programme, said home screenings were an excellent tool for early cancer detection.
They were free, simple and did not have to be undertaken in a medical facility, she said. The ministry expected the programme would make between 500 and 700 diagnoses a year once fully in place.
Since the pilot was introduced, 458 diagnoses have been made from 210,202 FOBT kits issued.
MoH statistics show 1200 Kiwis die from bowel cancer each year. It is second to lung cancer as the highest cause of cancer death in New Zealand.
The ministry has been critical of similar pharmacy bought kits, but Parry said its kits were different.
‘‘Screening using selfpurchased kits does not include a systematic approach to the screening, diagnosis and treatment, nor is there consistent support or counselling.
Bowel Cancer New Zealand general manager Rebekah Heal said her organisation supported the programme as well as the pharmacy kits.
The programme was only available to those aged 60 to 74 years, despite 11 per cent of those diagnosed with bowel cancer being 50 to 59. With no access to the programme, pharmacy kits were a good option for those in the lower age bracket.
*Free FOBT kits are available through the Hutt Valley, Wairarapa, Waitemata and Southern DHBs for people eligible for publicly-funded health care aged 60 to 74. Further information can be found by visiting www.timetoscreen.nz.