Advocates say New Zealanders are dying needlessly because there is no national screening programme for bowel cancer.

Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa says nearly as many New Zealanders die each year from bowel cancer as they do from breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.

In a screening pilot at the Waitemata District Health Board 160 people with no symptoms have been diagnosed – many detected at an early stage when there is the best potential for a cure.

The group’s CEO Megan Smith says a national screening programme would have the potential to save many people from dying.

“Unfortunately at the moment unless you reside in the Waitemata DHB and have access to the bowel cancer screening pilot there, generally if you are going to be diagnosed with bowel cancer you will generally be diagnosed with a later stage disease, which is criminal.”

Smith says without a national screening programme we are lagging behind Australia – and New Zealanders are dying needlessly.

“There’s no doubt that we need this, especially given that we are losing Kiwis at a rate of 100 per month, which is actually five times the national road toll.”

Megan Smith says that’s because it’s so curable if caught early, which a screening programme can do.