Bowel cancer screening saving Hawke’s Bay lives

Eight Hawke’s Bay people were treated for bowel cancer within the first six months of the National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP) rollout in Hawke’s Bay and more than 100 had precancerous polyps removed, preventing future cancers. 

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board was the seventh DHB to go live with the free programme, aimed at detecting early signs of bowel cancer - a disease that kills over 1200 people every year. 

Between 9 October and 30 April, more than 7000 eligible Hawke’s Bay patients aged between 60 and 74 received pre-invitation letters via a birth date system inviting them to participate in the programme. 

Hawke’s Bay DHB Clinical Lead of Gastroenterology, Dr Malcolm Arnold, said taking part in the programme has already been life-saving for Hawke’s Bay people, thanks to early detection.

“The screening programme helps us to identify cancers earlier and allow us to remove precancerous polyps which will in the medium to long term reduce the incidence of bowel cancer,” said Dr Arnold.

Also, people diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer, and who receive treatment early, have a 90% chance of long term survival,” said Dr Arnold. 

Within the first six months of the DHB’s NBSP rollout, 4650 Hawke’s Bay people had chosen to take part by using the discreet, simple and clean to use home test kit where a poo sample is collected on a test stick, placed in a sample tube and returned via freepost in a zip-lock bag to the lab for testing.  

Of the 4650 samples posted to the lab, 156 people were referred for a colonoscopy where 70% had precancerous polyps removed, preventing future cancers.  Eight people referred for colonoscopy were diagnosed with bowel cancer. 

One in 16 males and one in 21 females will experience bowel cancer by the age of 75 in New Zealand. 

Dr Arnold said despite the bowel cancer screening programme being free for eligible residents, more than 2000 people who received pre-invitation letters chose not to participate in the free programme. 

“We really want to continue to raise the awareness of how simple and easy these test kits are to use, and how important it is to take part, whilst also raising awareness of bowel cancer symptoms,” said Dr Arnold.  

“Anyone with symptoms such as bleeding from the bottom or blood in their poo, a change in bowel habits lasting more than six weeks, stomach pain which can be severe, any lumps or mass in your tummy or weight loss and tiredness, should see their doctor,” said Dr Arnold. 

Anyone wishing to contact the bowel screening programme can call 0800 924 432 or visit for more information. 

June is Bowel Cancer New Zealand’s awareness month called ‘Move Your Butt’ – for more information visit:

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