Aotearoa New Zealand’s free bowel cancer screening programme is continuing to save lives, and has now detected over 2000 cancers. Bowel cancer is this country’s second most-common cause of death from cancer, and finding it early gives people a much greater likelihood of survival.

National Bowel Screening Programme clinical director Dr Susan Parry says, as of early August, 2080 cancers had been detected through the programme. 

“Just under a third of the cancers detected were at an early stage, when treatment is usually very effective. Only a low number of cancers found were at a very advanced stage.

“On top of that, the programme has led to hundreds of people having pre-cancerous polyps removed, saving more lives,” she says.

More than 3300 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year and more than 1200 die from it. The free programme began rollout in 2017 and was in place across the country by June 2022. It is the first cancer screening programme offered to both men and women. 

“Bowel screening is easy, and you can do it at home,” Dr Parry says.

“The test can help detect bowel cancer before you have any symptoms. Everyone who gets a bowel cancer test kit in the mail should use it. The test is easy to do and takes just a few minutes. It could save your life.”

Free bowel screening through the National Bowel Screening Programme is available to people from the age of 60 to 74.

The programme is for people who have no symptoms of bowel cancer. If you have any of the following symptoms, or you are concerned about your bowel health, see your GP right away:

  • a change in your normal bowel habit that continues for several weeks
  • blood in your bowel motion.

For more information, visit the Time to Screen website, call the National Bowel Screening Programme on 0800 924 432, or talk to your doctor.