The National Bowel Screening Programme has launched in Counties Manukau

Media release 10 July 2018 | The National Bowel Screening Programme has today been launched for the first time in Counties Manukau, with more than 65,000 residents being invited to participate in the programme which will be rolled out over the next two years.

The free programme will save lives through identifying bowel cancer early, when it can often be successfully treated.  

Those eligible for the screening programme will be invited over the next two years, to participate in the screening programme, around the time of their birthday.  Eligible participants will receive a letter, a home testing kit and consent form through the mail.  They will be asked to take a screening test every two years.

The Counties Manukau Health clinical lead for the National Bowel Screening Programme, Dr Alasdair Patrick, says the launch has been anticipated in the wider health community.

“This programme will make a massive difference for our community and counter the suffering and early mortality that bowel cancer is causing for individuals and their whaanau in our area,” says Dr Patrick.

“Bowel cancer is the second highest cause of cancer related death and outcomes are worse in Maaori and those from lower socio-economic groups. It’s vital that this initiative reaches as many people as possible, as early detection will usually mean the cancer is able to be treated.”

The test detects minute traces of blood in a sample of faeces (poo). This can be an early warning sign for bowel cancer and an indication that further investigation is required, typically through a colonoscopy procedure.

All tests and treatment under the National Bowel Screening Programme are free for people aged 60-74 years, who are eligible to receive public healthcare, and are not currently receiving treatment, or being observed for bowel cancer.

Bowel Cancer Survivor

Bowel cancer survivor Rasela Filipo, 67, supports the bowel cancer screening programme and encourages everyone invited to participate, to do it.

“Do the test. If you want to live longer, see your grandkids and your loved ones longer, please do the test,” says Rasela.

At 63, Samoan-born Rasela was leading a normal life when she noticed blood in her bowel motion when she went to the toilet.

“I knew it wasn’t normal, but I didn’t go to see the doctor.  A year later, I couldn’t go to the toilet. I was in so much pain. Finally, I went to see the doctor.

“They told me I had bowel cancer.”

Fortunately for Rasela, she eventually made the decision to get the treatment that was needed, and has now made a full recovery.

To see Rasela’s story, click here.

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 aged 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, or call 0800 924 432, or talk to your family doctor.

Issued by:   Counties Manukau Health Communications

Media Line:  09 250 9857   Email:

Posted in media release;

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