DIY cancer screen­ing a life saver

Upper Hutt Leader - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEWTSO

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.

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