Media release from Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa

The Governments cancer control plan launched yesterday by Health Minister Jonathan
Coleman promises to improve coverage and service delivery of the bowel cancer screening program and reduce barriers to access for more people across all population groups.

Beat Bowel Cancer Chairperson Mary Bradley responds – “Has the minister let the cat out of the bag and committed to national screening? This would be excellent news and would mean hundreds of lives would be saved from a cancer that is preventable, treatable and beatable if caught early enough. Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa has been strongly advocating for a national screening program and we’re thrilled the Minister is committing to this.”

Recent updates from the Ministry of Health have indicated that in just two years, the
Waitemata DHB Bowel Cancer Screening Pilot has diagnosed 164 people with bowel cancer who had no symptoms – most of these were detected at an early stage when there is good potential for cure.

We have just one question for the Minister, when will the government give us a timeline for this rollout? The pilot in Waitemata has clearly shown screening works and will save lives.”

The Government continues to quote “workforce capacity” as a reason for the delay with the staged national screening program.

Bradley comments – “Delay due to workforce capacity has become a common refrain from this government. What we want to know is what is being done to address this problem? The government is not moving fast enough to find a solution while 100+ lives are being lost to bowel cancer every month in our country.”

BBCA 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;
• Anaemia.

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 or through http://www.beatbowelcancer.org.nz.
More information on bowel cancer and BBCA can be found at
http://www.beatbowelcancer.org.nz.

About Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa
• Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa (BBCA) is a patient and family-led charity organisation.
• The registered charity was founded in 2010 by a group of people affected by bowel
cancer, committed to improving bowel cancer awareness and outcomes for people
with the disease.
• BBCA aims to provide clear and up-to-date information about the disease,
symptoms, what to do if diagnosed and to support patients and families affected by
bowel cancer.
• The ultimate aim of BBCA is to save lives lost to this disease and to promote the
introduction of a national screening program in New Zealand.