The battle against colon cancer has taken a big step forward at Tauranga Hospital with the opening of a third endoscopy room.

Endoscopes examine the interior of hollow organs and include colonoscopes for the bowel and gastroscopes for the stomach.

Bay of Plenty District Health Board medical director Dr Hugh Lees said the third room meant they would be able to take less urgent cases and patients who were on active surveillance following operations.

He said most of the activity in the hospital's endoscopy rooms involved colons because of the prevalence of bowel cancer. The third room would greatly assist when bowel cancer screening was to be introduced in 2018.


The successful trial at the Waitemata District Health Board which started in 2012 saw people receive test kits in the mail. They were asked to send a poo sample to a laboratory which checked for the presence of blood.

Blood could be linked to the growth of polyps on the inner lining of the colon. Although polyps were very common, they may become cancerous.

Dr Lees said the health board had achieved good traction on addressing the urgent cases and the third room meant they could attend to important but less urgent cases. He expected an increase in the number of procedures once screening was introduced.

The hospital completes 3500 endoscopies a year and the new procedure room will significantly boost this number.

District Health Board member David Stewart welcomed the opening last week of the third endoscopy room, saying New Zealand lagged behind in bowel cancer prevention.

Board chief executive Helen Mason told this week's meeting that New Zealand was behind America, Australia and the UK, but not everyone in the OECD.

In other hospital news, work was progressing well on the hospital's new cardiology suite which has pulled together under one roof the different elements previously scattered around the hospital.

Board chairwoman Sally Webb said it was now one cohesive cardiac care unit. While the services were not new, everything had been brought into one suite.

National bowel screening programme
- Roll out begins 2017 with Bay of Plenty District Health Board starting 2018.
- Will screen 700,000 people aged 60 to 74 every two years.
- About 3000 New Zealanders diagnosed with bowel cancer each year.
- More than 80 per cent of cancers found in the Auckland trial were people aged 60 to 74.