Failure to provide national bowel cancer screening condemned as "outrageous"

by Ruth Laugesen / 20 February, 2013
New evidence suggests national screening for NZ's second deadliest cancer could save twice as many lives as breast cancer screening.
bowel cancer
Photo/David White


Bowel cancer patient advocates are calling for the urgent introduction of national bowel cancer screening after new evidence that it would save twice as many lives as breast cancer screening does.

A bowel screening programme would save about 86 lives a year, or 6.8% of the annual bowel cancer toll, according to figures provided to the Listener by Otago University cancer expert associate professor Brian Cox.

Cox has calculated that the breast screening programme saves between 35 and 49 lives a year, or 5.3% and 7.5% of all breast cancer deaths each year.

Rachel Holdaway of Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa said the Cox estimates showed there was a strong case for bowel screening.

“His figures just highlight how incredible and outrageous it is that we don’t have a commitment from this government to a national roll-out of a bowel cancer screening programme. We call on the government to commit to this roll-out in the upcoming Budget.”

Bowel cancer is New Zealand’s second deadliest cancer, killing 1200 people a year.

But despite New Zealand having one of the highest death rates in the world for bowel cancer, this country has yet to set up a national screening programme.

Australia, the UK and most European Union countries have screening programmes, in which stool samples for older people are examined for microscopic traces of blood. Bowel cancer screening would cost $60m a year, similar to the cost of breast cancer screening.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said a decision on national screening would be made before the pilot finished. “Towards the end of the pilot the Government will analyse what’s worked and what hasn’t and make a decision on rolling out a national programme.”

“One of the biggest constraints of a national bowel screening pilot will be the workforce to perform colonoscopies. Work is under way to ensure our endoscopy services are operating efficiently and effectively so they can cope with the increased workload that would inevitably arise from a national screening programme.”

“The pilot will provide us with vital information on participation levels, cancer detection rates, the impact on health services and whether a screening programme would be cost effective. The breast screening programme in New Zealand was also run as pilot prior to being rolled out nationally.”

New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation CEO Van Henderson said although they could not comment on Cox’s numbers, “we do think there’s a case for bowel cancer screening in New Zealand, as well as breast cancer screening.”

 

Read Ruth Laugesen’s feature story Bowel cancer: the silent killer, from the February 23 edition of the Listener, here Subscriber contentIcon definitionSubscriber content Ruth talks to doctors, scientists and patients and asks: Why don’t we have a screening programme? Also: how to tell if you are at risk.

 

Related content:
Cancer and hope: Some believe the right mental attitude, a healthy diet, exercise and meditation can help beat cancer, but how do these claims stack up? By Ruth Laugesen Subscriber contentIcon definitionSubscriber content

Reducing the risk of cancer with a healthier diet, by Jennifer Bowden Subscriber contentIcon definitionSubscriber content

Genetic insights into cancer, by Margo White Subscriber contentIcon definitionSubscriber content
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Sunday ride: An Aucklander shares one of her favourite bike rides
71797 2017-04-30 00:00:00Z Urbanism

Sunday ride: An Aucklander shares one of her favou…

by Paperboy

Olivia Lynch, partnerships and events manager for Bike Auckland, recommends a weekend cycling excursion.

Read more
Donna Chisholm: Defending David Dougherty
Teeks: The soul singer whose voice will give you goosebumps
71775 2017-04-29 00:00:00Z Music

Teeks: The soul singer whose voice will give you g…

by Lydia Jenkin

Growing up immersed in waiata (and the sounds of Bob Marley and Elvis Presley), soul singer Teeks has a voice that gives people shivers.

Read more
Book review: Human Acts by Han Kang
Port in a storm: How long will it take to rebuild Wellington's quake-hit docks?
71836 2017-04-29 00:00:00Z Business

Port in a storm: How long will it take to rebuild …

by Tina Morrison

Wellington’s CentrePort’s “marathon” quake rebuild is led by a chief executive who has lived through the experience before.

Read more
Hardcore exercise could be harming your sex drive
71590 2017-04-29 00:00:00Z Health

Hardcore exercise could be harming your sex drive

by Nicky Pellegrino

According to new research, pushing your exercising to the limits can have dire consequences for health, libido and fertility.

Read more
The power of an electric cargo bike in Auckland
71804 2017-04-29 00:00:00Z Urbanism

The power of an electric cargo bike in Auckland

by Paperboy

"It’s a way back to the freedom of youth, when kicking around on a bike with friends was one of life’s great joys."

Read more
Politicians aren’t talking to us this election year, but to Winston Peters
71902 2017-04-28 14:08:09Z Politics

Politicians aren’t talking to us this election yea…

by Jane Clifton

We don't want any David Cunliffe cod-bogan attempts to get down with the peeps, but MPs seem to be going way too far in the other direction this year.

Read more