The National Bowel Screening programme has now completed its roll out across Aotearoa New Zealand. Bowel Screening is offered to New Zealanders aged 60-74 years that are eligible for publicly funded health care.
Every two years, on or near your birthday, you can expect to receive an invitation letter, followed by a test kit in the mail. If you haven’t received an invitation within two months of turning 60, please freephone 0800 924 432 or email the National Bowel Screening Programme on email@example.com and you will be advised when your invite will be sent.
The testing kits are small - just a little bigger than a USB stick, easy to use, and can help detect bowel cancer early, before you have any symptoms
If you are in this key age band, look out for your test. Acting now could save your life.
A higher proportion of bowel cancer occurs in Māori and Pacific peoples before they reach 60, which is why there are plans to reduce the eligible start age from 60 to 50 years for these populations in the near future.
Waikato and Tairāwhiti are the first districts to introduce a lower starting age for Māori and Pacific people eligible to participate in bowel screening. Lessons from this initial implementation will inform the progressive introduction of a lower eligible age for Māori and Pacific people across the country, from mid-2023.
Introducing Ann Bergman who has kindly agreed to help promote the programme to encourage eligible people to take part. Ann wanted to take a lead role in this kaupapa to ensure the great work started by the late Dame Aroha Reriti-Crofts continues.
Ann has taken part in the programme herself and tested positive for signs of cancer. She has since had a colonoscopy to find and remove cancers or pre-cancers and now has regular checks to ensure she stays in the clear.
Ann tells her story in these three videos and apart from encouraging people to use the simple test and return it, she is absolutely clear that if she hadn’t used the test, she may not have known anything was wrong until it was too late. Her test found something wrong early enough to treat her successfully.
45 second video – Why you should take part in the programme
5 minute video – Longer, but well worth a watch – Ann tells her full story, starting with her pēpeha and ending with an explanation of where the videos were shot: Tūhaitara Harakeke Pā, a very special place to her.
A national multi-media campaign was launched in July 2022 to promote the Bowel Screening Programme and encourage people to take part and complete and return their test kits when they arrive. Ads are currently on TV, radio and online and there is a range of supporting printed material available.
To watch the TV advertising:
60 second ads, in English with sign interpreter and captions in multiple languages:
30 second ads, in English only, with sign interpreter
There is also a set of educational videos, outlining the purpose of the programme through to how to complete your test successfully – in eleven languages.
Bowel cancer is one of New Zealand's most common cancers and the second highest cause of cancer death. About 3000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year and more than 1200 die from it.
The disease is more common as we get older and is more likely to affect men than women. In Māori men it’s the third most common cancer.
Early stage bowel cancer does not normally cause symptoms and so it is difficult to detect without screening,
People who are diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer, and who receive treatment, have greater than a 90 percent chance of long-term survival.
Since it began in New Zealand, the programme has screened more than half a million people and detected more than 1500 cancers. Of those cancers, the majority were early stage and so were able to undergo successful treatment.
You can help reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer by maintaining a healthy body weight, having a healthy diet high in fruit, vegetables and fibre, by exercising regularly and by moderating your alcohol intake and not smoking
More information on the National Bowel Screening Programme is available on www.timetoscreen.nz
Page last updated: 9 December 2022
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