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National Bowel Screening Programme

Free bowel screening kits aimed at saving lives will start arriving in the mailboxes of West Coast people aged 60 to 74 from early June 2021 provided they are registered with a General Practice. We encourage everyone that fits into this age group to register with a General Practice (it’s free) and to ensure their contact details are up to date.

On the Coast, around 6,505 people will be eligible to take part during the first two years of the programme.

People receiving the kits are being asked to “take a little test that could save their life”.

Initially, the National Coordination Centre will send a letter to everyone who fits the eligibility criteria to explain the process and to invite them to participate in the programme. Test kits will gradually be sent to invitees over the following two years on or near their birthday.

The test kit itself is about the size of a large USB stick, is easy to use and accompanied by clear instructions. It is designed to pick up tiny traces of blood in your faeces (poo) and enables us to carry out further investigations to ensure we catch cancers before they become advanced and more difficult to treat.

In the first year we expect to detect and treat around 10 cancers. We also expect to pick up some pre-cancerous and non-cancerous polyps and, in these instances, the participants will become part of our surveillance programme.

Early detection enables early intervention which gives people who return the test a much better chance of a successful long-term health outcome.

If you are 60–74 years old, look out for the kit. When you receive it, use it, attach the unique label that identifies the sample as yours and post it back straight away together with the consent form dated for the date you used the kit. Put simply – this little kit could save your life.

If you’re not in the eligible age range but have whānau members and friends who are, please tell them about the National Bowel Screening Programme and encourage them to look out for their kit and to use and return it straight away – this little kit could save their life too.

If, at any age, you have worrying signs or symptoms – don’t wait for a kit – make an appointment to see your GP team or health provider immediately. 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.
  • Bowel cancer rates on the West Coast are statistically above the national average with 76.5 patients per 100,000 people, and as such, the region has the eighth highest rate in the country and the third highest mortality rate at 36.5 patients per 100,000. We have the third highest incidence rate for those aged from 60-69 across the country, which is within the age range for the programme (60-74).
  • The disease typically affects people over 60 years old, and is more likely to affect men than women. In Māori 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 and half years ago, the programme has screened around 340,000 people and detected more than 900 cancers, many at an early stage. The earlier bowel cancer is diagnosed, the higher the chance of survival. When bowel cancer is detected early, there is over 90 percent chance of survival.
  • You can reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer by having a healthy diet high in fruit, vegetables and fibre, by exercising regularly, by not smoking and by maintaining a healthy body weight.

More information on the National Bowel Screening Programme is available on

Page last updated: 26 May 2021

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