Pathologist Michael Myskow and surgeon Alf Deacon with the inflatable colon that was on display at the Nelson market on Saturday. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Bowel cancer programme arrives in Nelson


Nelson’s high rate of bowel cancer is set to get a helping hand with the introduction of the National Bowel Screening Programme.

Health Minister Dr David Clark says that the Nelson Marlborough region has the fourth highest rate of bowel cancer in New Zealand.

“Having good local participation in the programme is our best opportunity for reducing the harm from this disease.”

David says that 30,000 people in the region, aged between 60 and 74, will join the national programme over the next two years with the first invitation letters sent out last week.

“We know the screening test will save lives and I encourage people to take up the opportunity to get screened. The free test could detect problems early and improve your chances of successful treatment.”

“Once the National Bowel Screening Programme is fully implemented, it is estimated that as many as 500-700 cancers each year will be detected early.”

Nelson Marlborough Health general manager of clinical services Lexie O’Shea says that with such a high rate of bowel cancer, the introduction of the programme is particularly important for us.

“It is especially important for Maori people, because while Maori people have lower rates of bowel cancer, they are more likely to die of bowel cancer than non-Maori.”

“This is often because they are diagnosed with bowel cancer at a more advanced stage than non-Maori, so we are asking people to encourage their whanau – their matua and kaumatua – to do the test when it comes to them in the post.”

Nelson Marlborough DHB is the sixth health board to introduce the National Bowel Screening Programme and the second in the South Island.

Nationwide, more than a quarter of a million eligible people are now being offered free bowel screening.

“I would like to recognise the hard work done by the DHB to get us to this point.”

“The message I frequently hear is that it is vitally important that we get this right.”

“That’s why it was so valuable to have had the programme recently endorsed by the independent review set up by Government following some concerns raised about the programme.”

“I am reassured that local people taking part in the bowel screening programme will benefit from the series of recommendations from the independent review which will guide the continued development of the national programme.”

David says that people around the region will begin to see the benefit of the programme progressively.