Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora are pleased to announce a significant milestone for the National Bowel Screening Programme. As of December 2023, over 1 million self-test bowel kits have been returned and processed.

The milestone for the screening programme, which began in 2017, has been reached following completion of the nationwide roll out in June 2022.

National Bowel Screening Programme Clinical Lead Dr Susan Parry says, “The bowel screening test is easy to do and can be completed in the privacy of your own home.”

Eligible New Zealanders from the age of 60 to 74 are invited to take part every two years.

“The test can help detect bowel cancer early before you have any symptoms, so we want to encourage everyone who gets a bowel cancer test kit in the mail to use it. It only takes a few minutes and could save your life,” says Dr Parry.

“Reaching the milestone of 1 million returned bowel screening test kits is testament to our commitment to provide accessible, effective screening, but we aren’t stopping there. Our programme continues to innovate, and we are increasing our focus over the coming year on community events and gatherings to provide additional opportunities for people to learn about bowel screening and request kits.”

Selah Hart, Maiaka Hāpori Deputy Chief Executive Public and Population Health, Te Aka Whai Ora, says we must continue to remove barriers for eligible whānau to access the programme.

“We know getting these kits in people’s hands, along with the right information and support, is a crucial factor to increasing participation rates, particularly for Māori,” says Selah.

“It’s encouraging to see over 70,000 eligible Māori have completed the test since the programme started. We’re continuing to work with our hauora Māori partners across the motu who support eligible whānau to screen so that we can decrease the risk of late diagnosis.”

More than 3300 people in Aotearoa are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year and more than 1,200 die from it. However, finding it early through screening means there is a greater chance of successful treatment.

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 local hauora clinic.