Wairarapa first for bowel cancer scheme

By Hayley Gastmeier hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz -
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Adri Isbister, Wairarapa DHB chief executive, is looking forward to being one of the first DHBs nationally to roll out the programme next year. PHOTO/FILE
Adri Isbister, Wairarapa DHB chief executive, is looking forward to being one of the first DHBs nationally to roll out the programme next year. PHOTO/FILE

Wairarapa Cancer Society has welcomed news the Wairarapa District Health Board will be one of the first nationally to roll out the new bowel screening programme next year.

The roll-out was confirmed last week at the Government's 2016 budget announcement that Wairarapa and Hutt Valley DHBs would begin screening 60 to 74-year-olds from mid-2017.

All other DHBs around the country are expected to have started screening by the end of 2019.

New Zealand has one of the developed world's highest rates of bowel cancer, with about 3000 cases registered each year and about 1200 deaths from the disease.

The Government has committed $39.3 million over four years to implement the bowel screening programme, which is based on the successful Waitemata DHB pilot scheme.

Wairarapa Cancer Society and Support Services centre manager Jacinta Buchanan said the charity had been advocating for the establishment of the programme since 2009.

She said the increase in funding was great news for managing the cancer, which in New Zealand is the second most common cause of cancer death.

Survival rates are better for patients who have the disease detected at an early stage.

The national bowel screening programme will help with early detection, Mrs Buchanan said.

"This bowel cancer screening test will provide a better diagnostic tool and pick up those people with symptoms who would otherwise not go to their doctor." She said due to its older population, Wairarapa was an ideal community to begin the screening programme in.

"This is good news for our community."

Wairarapa DHB chief executive Adri Isbister said the ability to offer the new service would be "a wonderful boost" for Wairarapa residents.

"It's great for our people, our region, and our DHB as it provides further opportunity to work with colleagues in the Hutt, ensuring patient safety and quality are at the forefront of our work."

She said the DHB would be working alongside local medical practices and other community health providers.

"We have a relatively high rate of colon cancer, and over the last year we have been looking at how we could work with our community to achieve an early rollout ahead of the national rollout.

"Now, we've been given the green light, which is a fantastic boost for our older population."

Once the programme is fully implemented, it would have the potential to reduce deaths from bowel cancer by at least 16 to 22 per cent.

"We're really looking forward to getting this under way," Mrs Isbister said.

"And with our new pentax scopes we'll be well equipped to provide the extra 200 colonoscopies we'll be delivering as part of the screening."

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