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Bowel screening programme already saving lives in central Auckland

Our Bowel Screening Programme has been running for fewer than six months and is already saving lives, with twenty three probable cancers found through screening. The programme, for people aged between 60 and 74, aims to catch cancers early, when they can often be successfully treated.

Remuera local, Anthony, received his bowel screening test kit in the mail and after completing the test at home, posted it back in the prepaid envelope to the laboratory. Anthony then received news that he had a positive FIT (faecal immunochemical test) result, which meant that some blood had been found in his bowel motion.

“I was surprised to get a positive result as I didn’t think there was a problem. My weight is stable, my bowel motions are regular, and I feel well. Receiving the news was scary, but the staff were very reassuring and the information they provided was very helpful and easy to read.”

For most people, a positive test result does not necessarily mean you have bowel cancer. About seven in every 100 people who get a positive test result will have cancer, and due to earlier detection, will be more likely to have a successful outcome. People who are diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer, and who receive treatment early, have a 90% chance of long term survival.

Anthony was surprised to hear that his friends didn’t participate in the screening, as bowel cancer is more common in those over 60, with men being at higher risk than women.

“I said to them, don’t be silly, just get on with it. It’s free and we don’t have to pay for it. Men are their own worst enemies when it comes to this stuff, we get complacent and we can take so much for granted living in New Zealand.”

Two weeks after receiving his results, Anthony went for a colonoscopy at the Greenlane Clinical Centre, where small biopsies were taken for further analysis. Anthony was delighted to get the ‘all-clear’.

“The procedure happened very quickly. I was given medication to help me feel comfortable and there was no pain or discomfort during or after the procedure. They took a biopsy and I didn’t feel a thing! I can’t emphasise the positive benefit of doing the bowel screening test. At least I can be confident and know that I’ve done the best I can by participating.”

Anthony said he will happily partake in the screening process again to check in on his bowel health.

Bowel Screening is free for those aged 60-74, and eligible for publicly funded healthcare. Invitations to participate in the programme appear in the letterboxes of those eligible (dependent on their birth date) and continue on a two-yearly cycle. For more information, visit timetoscreen.nz() or talk to your family doctor.

*Originally published in Ponsonby News().

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