The budget release yesterday was a hugely disappointing result for bowel cancer. Instead of a commitment to roll out a national bowel screening programme to benefit all New Zealanders, there is to be a further allocation of $12.4m to extend a lengthy and already proven Bowel Cancer Screening Pilot running in only one of New Zealand’s 20 DHB regions.

Bowel Cancer New Zealand (BCNZ) Chairperson Mary Bradley says, “It’s time to be honest about what this means. It is simply another stalling tactic when this country is crying out for a national screening program and is already far behind Australia and other OECD countries.”

There is strong International evidence that bowel screening saves lives.

Bradley says, “The 4 year bowel screen pilot running in the Waitemata DHB region is already 2 years longer than it needs to be. To add yet another two years to this pilot, when the results both here and internationally show that 350 more men and women will die in New Zealand than if they lived in Australia where there has been national screening in place for some years, is an insult.”

Recent research by Professor Tony Blakely and colleagues at the University of Otago has identified that New Zealand is spending much more on treating bowel cancer because it is diagnosed too late. Professor Blakely has said there is a need for a national bowel cancer screening programme, as bowel cancer is the most costly cancer type overall.

Bradley says, “The time for rolling out screening is now! This is nothing more than a stalling tactic by a government who is prioritising a legacy for John Key in terms of a flag most don’t want, over the lives of New Zealanders living outside of Waitemata.”

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman continues to quote “workforce capacity” as a reason for the delay with the national bowel cancer screening program.

“The government says it’s about capacity – we, and they, have known there is a need to increase capacity for well over 5 years. At the 2014 Colonoscopy Summit it was made clear that there is colonoscopy capacity available in the private sector that could be called on right now – while the much-needed longer-term workforce development gets started. So let’s get started!” says Bradley.

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;
• 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 BCNZ can be found at http://www.beatbowelcancer.org.nz

For further information:
Mary Bradley, Chairperson
Bowel Cancer New Zealand (BCNZ)
+64 21 027 51924
mary.bradley@beatbowelcancer.org.nz

About Bowel Cancer New Zealand
• Bowel Cancer New Zealand (BCNZ) 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.
• BCNZ 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 BCNZ is to save lives lost to this disease and to promote the introduction of a national screening program in New Zealand.