A month into the National Bowel Screening Programme in Whanganui, it is definitely proving its worth.
Five people have returned a positive test after being screened for bowel cancer as part of the new programme that launched in the Whanganui District Health Board (DHB) region on October 22, a DHB spokesman said.
The launch of the national programme follows the successful six-year pilot run by the Waitemata District Health Board. Whanganui DHB is the ninth DHB to join the free screening programme.
The programme is being offered to 12,000 people aged 60 to 74, who are eligible for publicly-funded healthcare, in the wider Whanganui region over the next two years.
Up until November 19, 489 people had been invited to take part and sent a test kit.
Alongside the five positive tests, 50 had returned negative tests and 431 people were yet to mail their kits back, the spokesman said.
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Three "spoiled" tests needed to be re-done. This may be due to not having the correct label attached, the sample not reaching the laboratory within seven days or the consent form not being filled in properly.
The positive tests may not necessarily mean cancer is present but showed how effective the screening is in detecting tiny traces of blood in a bowel motion. Small amounts of blood can be caused by minor conditions such as polyps or haemorrhoids.
Those with a positive test will be scheduled for a colonoscopy and further treatment within 45 working days.
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A negative result means that no further investigation is needed, but the screening test only detects blood in the bowel motion and some cancers do not bleed all the time.
The Whanganui DHB says participants should do the test soon after they receive it and post it for testing soon after. They need to make sure the date the sample was collected is on the consent form and the yellow barcode sticker is attached to the sample tube.
People aged 60 to 74 in the Whanganui DHB region whose birthday is on an even-numbered date will receive their testing kit before October 21, 2020, and those who have an odd-numbered birthday will receive it in the second year of testing from October 22, 2020, to October 21, 2021.
The Ministry of Health says screening every two years can help save lives by finding bowel cancer early and it could often be successfully treated.
It may also start to develop between screening tests so regular screening is important and participants would be invited for screening every two years while they were eligible.
Bowel cancer is more common in men than women and for those aged over 60.