Bowel Cancer New Zealand have long been concerned about poor access to colonoscopy for New Zealanders and the Minister’s announcement of a $4m boost will definitely help improve access.
However much still needs to be done to ensure access to colonoscopy does not depend either on where you live in New Zealand or on how wealthy you are. Bowel Cancer New Zealand (BCNZ) knows that marked regional variation in access currently exists.
BCNZ chairperson Mary Bradley says, “Whilst we are pleased the government is investing in colonoscopy services there is still no firm commitment or timeline in place from the government on a national screening programme.”
“The Ministry of health have been aware of workforce issues for at least nine years and yet they are still “consulting” with the sector. Meanwhile 1200 people are dying each year from bowel cancer, while this government considers the benefits of a “possible roll out” for which strong evidence already exists.”
Dr Coleman states early detection and treatment of bowel cancer can save lives, which makes the government’s delay in rolling out a national screening programme extremely frustrating and costly in terms of lives being lost.
The national PIPER Study published this year has also highlighted access to diagnosis and timely treatment as an issue. New Zealand has much higher rates of bowel cancer being diagnosed when people present urgently to emergency departments (30%; compared to only 20% in the UK) and a higher proportion of Kiwi’s (24%) are being diagnosed with ‘worst-level’ Stage 4 cancer than other countries.
Bradley says, “The government is failing New Zealanders by continuing to stall on implementing a national screening programme. The lack of national screening is unconscionable considering we lead the developed world in terms of bowel cancer rates and deaths – and the time for a decision is now a decade overdue. BCNZ is calling for an immediate start to a staged rollout, which could save hundreds of lives every year.”
BCNZ encourages open discussion about bowel cancer with medical professionals and avoiding ‘sitting on your symptoms’. Symptoms include:
• Bleeding from the bottom or seeing blood in the toilet after a bowel motion;
• Change of bowel motions over several weeks without returning to normal;
• Persistent or periodic severe pain the abdomen;
• A lump or mass in the abdomen;
• Tiredness and loss of weight for no particular reason;
Those who don’t live in the Waitemata DHB area or have symptoms or a family history of bowel cancer and want to do regular checks can talk to their GP or buy a commercially available bowel screening kit, which involves the family doctor, at Life or Unichem pharmacies.
More information on bowel cancer and BCNZ can be found at Bowel Cancer New Zealand