Hawke's Bay has become the seventh region to take part in the National Bowel Screening Programme aimed at detecting early signs of bowel cancer.

HBDHB Clinical Lead of Gastroenterology, Dr Malcolm Arnold, said taking part in the programme could be life-saving, thanks to early detection.

One in 18 males and one in 21 females will experience bowel cancer by the age of 75 in New Zealand.

"The National Bowel Screening Programme will identify cancers earlier and allow us to remove precancerous polyps which will in the medium to long term reduce the incidence of bowel cancer," Arnold said.


All eligible Hawke's Bay residents, aged between 60 and 74, were automatically enrolled in the programme and pre-invitation letters would be sent out daily, starting this week, via a birth date system, taking approximately two years to reach all residents.

People also had the opportunity to opt-out upon receiving their first letter.

"The free home test kit is discreet, simple and clean to use," explained Arnold.

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"A poo sample is collected on a test stick, placed in a sample tube then secured in a zip-lock bag. A Freepost envelope is provided and within three weeks of a sample being posted, that person will be contacted about their results."

Last week Minister of Health David Clark officially opened Hawke's Bay's new gastroenterology and endoscopy services building at Hawke's Bay Hospital.

The $13 million facility will boost the hospital's ability to prevent and treat gastro and bowel conditions, including bowel cancer.

Arnold said Hawke's Bay's population had a significant number of gastroenterological problems, many of which were undiagnosed.

"This facility combined with the rollout of the National Bowel Screening Programme in Hawke's Bay means we can catch cancer at its early stages, when people are not experiencing symptoms, and can more readily investigate symptoms which may be in keeping with inflammatory bowel disease and provide earlier, more effective treatment.

This will make a real difference in the lives of many patients and their families in Hawke's Bay each year," said Arnold.

Anyone who had questions about the bowel screening programme can Freephone 0800 924 432 or visit www.timetoscreen.co.nz (National Bowel Screening Programme).