SUP110921bowelcancer.JPG Hawke's Bay DHB bowel screening programme kaitakawaenga Sally Maoate (left) and Hinetewhiurangi Kani. Photo / Supplied
Hawke's Bay resident Jacob Dehar says taking a free national bowel screening programme test kit which arrived in his letterbox was the best decision he ever made.
Dehar, from Omahu, discovered two precancerous polyps which needed removing after taking the test.
"It's the best thing you can do - catch it early. I've always heard that but it's so important," he said.
"If you put it off, there's a chance that you might leave it and it could be too late."
Hawke's Bay DHB is celebrating three years since the national Bowel Screening Programme was rolled out across the region, saving many lives by detecting bowel cancer early.
Since its launch in Hawke's Bay, a total of 38,319 kits were posted out to eligible residents aged between 60 and 74, with 23,509 kits returned.
Of those, 1156 people returned positive results requiring more investigation and 73 cancers were detected.
Hawke's Bay DHB Bowel Screening Programme kaitakawaenga Sally Maoate and Hinetewhiurangi Kani work on outreach services to educate and encourage participation.
They are supported by a dedicated team in our Health Improvement and Equity Directorate.
While all eligible Hawke's Bay residents were automatically enrolled in the programme and sent pre-invitation letters via a birth date system, not all chose to participate. It's an area the DHB team were working hard to turn around.
"Taking the tests and sending samples back to be screened have already been life-saving for many Hawke's Bay people, like Dehar's story. That's thanks to early detection," said Maoate.
"We want everyone eligible to realise that they may not even experience symptoms, yet screening helps specialists identify cancers earlier and allows the removal of precancerous polyps. In the medium to long term they reduce the incidence of bowel cancer."
Kani said people diagnosed with early-stage bowel cancer, and who received treatment early, had a 90 per cent chance of long-term survival.
Bowel cancer kills more than 1200 people every year.
Participation rates of Māori and Pasifika across the region sit at around 44 to 48 per cent, so there was more work to be done, Kani said.
"Over 14,000 people haven't completed their tests, which is a lot when you think one small test could be life-saving for any of those people.
"We are working hard to help educate people about the free tests and provide support to reduce barriers, even if that means visiting homes, marae or churches and numerous other community events to korero more.
"We'd had great initiatives and people engaged through various promotions, with participation rates rising as a result."
Anyone with symptoms such as bleeding from the bottom or blood in their poo, a change in bowel habits lasting more than six weeks, stomach pain which can be severe, any lumps or mass in your tummy or weight loss and tiredness, should see their doctor.
Call 0800 924 432 or visit www.timetoscreen.co.nz for more information.