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National Bowel Screening Programme

Starting mid-November and over the next two years about 90,000 Canterbury people aged 60 to 74 will be eligible for a free test, as part of the National Bowel Screening Programme.

On or near their birthday, they can expect to receive their testing pack in the mail. People receiving the kits are being asked to “Start a movement that might save your life”.

If you have a birthday on an even date (2, 4, 6 etc - of the month) you will receive a test kit on or near their birthday during the first year.  If you have odd date birthday, your test will arrive in the second year of the programme.

The testing kits are small - just a little bigger than a USB stick, easy to use and designed to detect early signs of bowel cancer. Early detection enables early intervention which gives people who return the test a much better chance of a successful long-term health outcome.

In the first year we expect to detect 100 cancers early and around 1000 pre-cancerous growths.

If you are in this key age band, look out for your test. Acting now could save your life.

Bowel cancer and the screening programme

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world and 1200 people die from this disease each year. It is the second most common cause of death from cancer.

The disease typically affects people over 60 years old, and is more likely to affect men than women. In Maori men it’s the third most common cancer.

Early stage bowel cancer is difficult to detect without screening.

People who are diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer, and who receive treatment early, have a 90 percent chance of long-term survival.

Since it began in New Zealand just over three years ago, the programme has screened more than quarter of a million people and detected more than 700 cancers early enough for successful treatment in 90 percent of cases.

You can reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer by having a healthy diet high in fruit, vegetables and fibre, by exercising regularly and by not smoking.

More information on the National Bowel Screening Programme is available on

Page last updated: 19 January 2021

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