Raising awareness of bowel cancer and a screening programme that could save lives is the focus of a Counties Manukau Health community event at the Mangere Town Centre on Saturday, 17 November.
The event is an opportunity for the community to learn more about bowel cancer and the importance, for those who are eligible, of doing the bowel screening test.
“Bowel cancer is the second highest cancer killer in New Zealand, and the rates of death are much higher in the Pacific population compared to other New Zealanders. Despite this, the numbers of Pacific people getting involved in the screening programme so far are low,” says clinical lead for the Counties Manukau Health Bowel Screening Programme, Dr Alasdair Patrick.
“Pacific people can benefit the most from screening, as early detection will usually mean the cancer is treatable. I would encourage those who are between the ages of 60-74 to get screened. Please encourage relatives of the screening age and their whaanau to attend the community event on the 17th to talk to our team about the programme.”
Since the National Bowel Screening Programme was launched in Counties Manukau in July, around 12,000 bowel screening kits have been sent to eligible Counties Manukau residents.
Niuafolau Fuata-Niuafolau and Tetoa Teina are two local residents who have taken the test, and want to encourage more Pacific people to do the bowel screening test.
Mrs Niuafolau is a Minister at her local church, has actively spoken about her experience doing the test and supporting others to do the same.
“A lot of people don’t understand how to live healthy. They think they’re okay and don’t do tests that are sent to them,” says Mrs Niuafolau.
“As a reverend in my church, it’s my duty to spread awareness. Some people are scared or they doubt doing the test; they feel a lot of shame. I say, don’t be doubtful. The test is there to save your life. People would ask; how can I do this test? I say, go see your doctor and ask them what to do. Some of them have now done the test.”
Like Mrs Niuafolau, Mr Teina received the bowel screening kit in the mail and found doing the test easy and painless.
“I caught up with my mates after I did the test at the [Manukau] SuperClinic. I talked to them about what I had just done. They were amazed. I told them there’s no pain, it’s easy,” says Mr Teina.
“For our Pacific people, I say you should do the test. It’s harmless, painless, and it’s for your own good. Don’t leave it too late to do something about it.”
All tests and treatment under the National Bowel Screening Programme are free for eligible participants (people aged 60 - 74 years who are eligible to receive public healthcare, and who are not currently receiving treatment or surveillance for bowel cancer).
Invitations will be sent to those eligible around the time of their birthday. They will receive an invitation letter, home testing kit and consent form through the mail, and will continue to be invited to take a screening test every two years.
The community event will be held at the Mangere Town Centre from 10am to 12pm and there will be an information stall, cultural perfomances and guest speakers.
Facts about bowel cancer
- New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world.
- Bowel cancer kills as many people as breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
- Currently 3,000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year and 1,200 die from it.
- Bowel cancer is more common in those over 60 and affects more men than women.
- Common symptoms may include:
- A change to your normal pattern of going to the toilet that continues for several weeks.
- Blood in your bowel motion (poo).
- Although these symptoms are usually caused by other conditions, it’s important to get them checked by your doctor.
- Deterioration of bowel health and bowel cancer is not a necessary part of aging. You can reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer by having a healthy diet high in fruit, vegetables and fibre, regular exercise and by not smoking.
- People don’t need to register; they will automatically be contacted by mail to participate in the programme. However, people aged 60 – 74 years of age are encouraged to ensure their contact details are up to date with their family doctor.
For more information about the programme, please visit www.timetoscreen.nz, or call 0800 924 432, or talk to your family doctor.
Issued by: Counties Manukau Health Communications
Media Line: 09 250 9857 Email: Communications@middlemore.co.nz