Southern DHB prepares to launch National Bowel Screening Programme

Dr Jason Hill, clinical lead and Emma Bell, programme manager.

Dr Jason Hill, clinical lead and Emma Bell, programme manager, Southern DHB Bowel Screening Programme.


From the end of April, over 51,000 residents in Otago and Southland, aged 60 – 74 years of age, will be invited to participate in the National Bowel Screening Programme.

This free programme, which is available to men and women, will save lives through detecting pre-cancerous polyps, or finding bowel cancer early, when it can often be successfully treated. Those eligible will receive an invitation letter, home testing kit and consent form through the mail.

The test detects minute traces of blood in a sample of faeces (poo). This can be an early warning sign for bowel cancer, alerting health providers that further investigation is required, typically through a colonoscopy procedure.

Men and women living in the Southern district will be among the first people in the South Island to take part in the programme. Those eligible will be invited to take a screening test every two years.

All tests and treatment are free for eligible participants (people who are eligible to receive public healthcare, and who are not currently receiving treatment, or surveillance for bowel cancer.)

Facts About Bowel Cancer:

* New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world and the Southern District has some of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the country
* Bowel cancer kills as many people as breast cancer and prostate cancer combined
* Currently 3000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year and 1200 die from it
* Bowel cancer is more common in those over 60 and affects more men than women

Common symptoms may include:
A change to your normal pattern of going to the toilet that continues for several weeks
Blood in your bowel motion (poo)
Although these symptoms are usually caused by other conditions, it’s important to get them checked by your doctor
Deterioration of bowel health and bowel cancer is not a necessary part of aging. You can reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer by having a healthy diet high in fruit, vegetables and fibre, regular exercise and by not smoking

People don’t need to register, they will automatically be contacted by mail to participate in the programme. However, people aged 60 – 74 years of age are encouraged to ensure their details are up to date with their GP.

For more information about bowel cancer and the National Screening Programme visit or call 0800 924 432.

Abridged, taken from an article on the Southern District Health Board website, April 17, 2018