National Bowel Screening Programme saving Hawke’s Bay lives

Omahu resident Jacob Dehar says taking a free national bowel screening programme test kit that arrived in his letterbox was the best decision he ever made.

“The test kit helps to detect bowel cancer early so you can be treated.

“They found two precancerous polyps that needed removing. It’s the best thing you can do, is to catch it early. I’ve always heard that but it’s so important. If you put it off, well there’s a chance that you might leave it and it could be too late.”

Hawke’s Bay DHB is celebrating three years since the national Bowel Screening Programme was rolled out across the region, saving many lives by detecting bowel cancer early.

Since its launch in Hawke’s Bay, a total of 38,319 kits have been posted out to eligible residents aged between 60 and 74, with 23,509 kits returned. Of those, 1,156 people returned positive results requiring more investigation and 73 cancers were detected.

Hawke’s Bay DHB Bowel Screening Programme kaitakawaenga, Sally Maoate and Hinetewhiurangi Kani work at the coalface on outreach services to educate and encourage participation. They are supported by a dedicated team in our Health Improvement and Equity Directorate.

While all eligible Hawke's Bay residents are automatically enrolled in the programme and sent pre-invitation letters sent via a birth date system, not all choose to participate and it’s an area our dedicated team are working hard to turn around.

“Taking the tests and sending samples back to be screened have already been life-saving for many Hawke’s Bay people, like Mr Dehar’s story, and that’s thanks to early detection,” says Sally.

“We really want everyone eligible to realise they may not even experience symptoms, yet screening helps specialists to identify cancers earlier and allows the removal of precancerous polyps which in the medium to long term reduce the incidence of bowel cancer.”

Hinetewhiurangi says people diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer, and who receive treatment early, have a 90 percent chance of long-term survival.  For those less fortunate, the disease kills over 1200 people every year.

The bowel screening programme was rolled out to detect early signs of bowel cancer. However, participation rates of Māori and Pasifika across the region sit at around 44 to 48 percent, so there is more work to be done, she said. 

“Over 14,000 people haven’t completed their tests which is a lot when you think one small test could be life-saving for any one of those people.

“We are working really hard to help educate people about the free tests and provide support to reduce barriers, even if that means visiting homes, marae or churches and numerous other community events to korero more.

“We’d had great initiatives and people engaged through various promotions with participation rates rising as a result.”

Bowel cancer kills over 1200 people every year. 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. 

Call 0800 924 432 or visit for more information.

Watch Jacob and Kahurangi Dehar’s story here: Photo 2: Jacob Dehar

Photo caption: L to R: Hawke’s Bay DHB bowel screening programme kaitakawaenga Sally Maoate and Hinetewhiurangi Kani.


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