People in the MidCentral Health district aged 60 to 74 years will start getting invitations to join the national bowel screening programme from November 12.

MidCentral DHB is launching the programme in the region.

Over the next two years, more than 28,000 residents will be invited to take part, with the first invitation letters due to be sent out next week.

The programme aims to save lives through detecting pre-cancerous polyps, or finding bowel cancer at an early stage, when treatment is more likely to be successful.

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People who are eligible will receive an invitation letter, home-testing kit and consent through the mail.

The test detects traces of blood in a small sample of faeces. This can be an early warning sign for bowel cancer, alerting health providers that further tests are required, typically through a colonoscopy procedure.

There is a lot of interest among the wider health community, says Dr Nick Tindle, Clinical Lead for the MidCentral DHB national bowel screening programme.

"We estimate around 58 cases of bowel cancer will be detected during the first two years of the programme, many of which will be in the early stages when it is easier to treat," Tindle said.

"This shows the value of the programme, as it will save lives."

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer or colon cancer, is any cancer that affects the colon (large bowel) and rectum.

The disease kills more than 1200 people every year in New Zealand. People who are diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer, and who receive treatment early, have a 90 per cent chance of long-term survival.

Planning has occurred for the expected increase in the number of colonoscopies that will be required in the first two years of the programme.

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GPs and primary care staff also play a key part in the programme. They will be contacting participants about positive test results and supporting them on their journey through diagnosis and treatment.

Invitation letters will coincide with people's birthdays, allowing for a constant and even flow of invitations over 24 months.

People who have a birthday with an even number (eg, 2nd, 4th, 6th of the month) will receive an invitation in year 1 (between late November 2019 and November 2020).

Those with an odd birthdate number (eg, 1st, 3rd, 5th of the month) will receive an invitation in year 2 (between November 2020 and November 2021).

People who are having their 60th birthday will receive an invitation around the time of their birthday, regardless of their birth date.

After a person has been invited for the first time, future correspondence will be based on their previous screening dates.

The programme started in July 2017 with Hutt Valley and Wairarapa the first DHBs involved. Once the national programme is fully implemented, more than 700,000 people aged between 60 and 74 years will be invited to take part in screening every two years.

• For more information on the national bowel screening programme, go to www.timetoscreen.nz or to talk to someone about the bowel screening programme call freephone 0800 924 432.