Published Thursday 15 Apr 2021

People aged 60-74 years living in Kapiti, Porirua, and Wellington and who are enrolled with a GP can expect an invitation to participate in the free National Bowel Screening programme over the next two years.

Members of the Bowel Screening team check out the inflatable bowel at Kenepuru Community Hospital – L-R specialist services operations manager Colin Spratt, programme coordinator Helen Gower, gastroenterology nurse Brogan Rose, gastroenterology nurse manager Jane Bilik, and gastroenterology nurse Michelle Lau.

The screening programme – already in place in the Hutt Valley and Wairarapa – starts in Wellington this week, with the first invitations expected to receive some people this month.

“Bowel cancer, especially in its early stages, may not cause any symptoms,” said Capital & Coast DHB programme clinical lead Dr Estella Johns.

“By screening every two years, we aim to detect these cancers and save lives. Being able to offer bowel screening at CCDHB is exciting. We’ve worked hard to ensure we have all the systems in place to be able to treat any cancers we find and still maintain our other services.”

Over the next two years, around 45,000 people across the district will be invited for screening around their birthday. There is no need to enrol – a letter and a screening test will be sent to people’s homes. Anyone who has recently moved or changed address is urged to ensure their GP has up-to-date information.

Bowel cancer kills around 1200 Kiwis every year, and screening can save lives by helping find it at an early stage. When identified early, bowel cancer is treatable and it is estimated that screening will identify around 700 people in the region each year who will need further investigation.

The two-year rollout means people with an even birth date are invited during year one, and those with odd birth dates invited in year two. The free test is quick, clean, and simple to do at home. It detects minute traces of blood in a very small poo sample – this can be an early warning sign for bowel cancer, alerting doctors that further investigation is required.

“Evidence shows that early identification and treatment of bowel cancer can save lives. However we need to ensure we work together to achieve equitable reach, access, and outcomes – particularly for Māori, Pacific, and Disability communities. Our team is dedicated to ensuring equity is a priority.

“Being able to offer bowel screening at CCDHB is exciting. We’ve worked hard to ensure we have all the systems in place to be able to treat any cancers we find and still maintain our other services.”

CCDHB is also focused on ensuring access to information about bowel cancer and the testing process for the disability community by working to ensure information is available in New Zealand Sign Language, Easy Read, and other formats.

“Disabled people have the same rights as everyone else to access information about bowel cancer and the screening process, so they are able to make informed decisions and take care of their own health. We are working with the Ministry of Health and our community to ensure everyone is included,” said general manager Disability Strategy Rachel Noble.

It is important to note that bowel screening is for people with no symptoms of bowel cancer. Anyone with blood in their bowel motion or an ongoing change – of at least six weeks – in their normal bowel habits should contact their GP immediately and not wait for the bowel screening test.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world. It is the second-highest cause of cancer death in New Zealand. Around 3200 people are diagnosed every year, 1200 of whom those will die from it. However the chances of surviving this cancer are very good when the cancer is found early – this is the goal of the National Bowel Screening Programme.

For more information on the National Bowel Screening Programme visit or call 0800 924 432.

Media contact: Chas Te Runa – 027 230 9571