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Bowel screening

 A group of Maori males of different ages smiling with a small baby with the river in the background

Over the next two years around 12,000 residents from the Whanganui region, aged 60 to 74, will be invited to participate in a bowel screening programme. 


Over the next two years around 12,000 residents from the Whanganui region, aged 60 to 74, will be invited to participate in a bowel screening programme. The programme aims to save lives by finding bowel cancer at an early stage where it can often be successfully treated.

People in the Whanganui region aged 60-74, who are eligible, will automatically be enrolled in the programme. Invitations to do the test, including instructions and a small tube for collecting a small sample of your bowel motion will be sent out within the next two years to about 6,000 people each year in the Whanganui region.

It is likely that 25 cases of bowel cancer will be detected from the screening programme in the first two years alone People who are diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer, and who receive treatment early, have a 90% chance of long term survival.  1,200 New Zealanders die of bowel cancer yearly.

The free test is quick, clean and simple to do. You do it by yourself at home.  Watch more in the video below or for more information visit the Ministry of Health website or call 0800 924 432.  

 Frequently asked questions

  • What makes me eligible?

You must be aged 60 to 74 and eligible for publicly funded New Zealand health care. For more information on eligibility, visit the Ministry of Health website.

  • When will I get my pack in the mail?

If you are aged 59, you will get your pack around your 60th birthday, regardless of your birthdate.

If you are aged 60-73, you will get your pack around your birthday

If you have an even birthdate (e.g. 2nd, 4th, 6th, etc of the month) you will receive an invitation in year 1 (between 22 October 2019 and 21 October 2020).

If you have an odd birthdate (e.g. 1st, 3rd, 5th, etc of the month) you will receive an invitation in year 2 (between 22 October 2020 and 21 October 2021).

If you are aged 74, you will get your pack before your 75th birthday (if you have not already been invited to screen)

  • How do I do the test?

To do the test, you need to:collect a small sample from your bowel motion (poo) using the test stick, and put it into the tube

  • put the sample tube in the zip-lock bag provided, along with the signed and completed consent form
  • post it as soon as possible in the reply-paid envelope provided

Do the test as soon as possible. Keep the sample in a cool place until you post it. It does not need to be kept in the fridge.

The test needs to reach the laboratory within 7 days of being completed, otherwise it won’t be accepted. To prevent any postal delays, it’s best not to send it on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Make sure you place the yellow bar code on the test tube and fill out your consent form.

You need to return your test kit within six months of receiving it or the laboratory won’t be able to process it. It’s best to do the test as soon as you can and post it back within 7 days of completing it.

The laboratory can’t process tests which have passed their expiry date.

After people have had their initial screen, those eligible will be invited to screen again every two years until they reach 75 years of age.

If you lose your kits or it expires, you can phone the 0800 number for a replacement kit at any time.

  • How does the test work?

We use a test called a faecal immunochemical test (FIT). This test can detect tiny traces of blood present in a small sample of your bowel motion (poo) – which may be an early warning sign that something is wrong with your bowel.

  • How do I get the result?

Visit the Ministry of Health Time to Screen website for more information.

  • Who should not do the bowel screening test?

You should not do the bowel screening test if you:

  • have symptoms of bowel cancer
  • have had a colonoscopy within the last five years
  • are on a bowel polyp or bowel cancer surveillance programme
  • have had, or are currently being treated for, bowel cancer
  • have had your large bowel removed
  • have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease that is currently active
  • are seeing your doctor about bowel problems.   
  • Is this programme only for Māori?

No, this programme is for everyone eligible aged 60 to 74.

However, we hope the programme will improve health outcomes for Māori in the Whanganui region and we are focussing on raising awareness of bowel cancer and the screening programme with Māori and Pacific Islanders in our community.

Iwi providers Te Oranganui (Whanganui), Mokai Patea Services (Taihape), Te Kotuku Hauora o Rangitikei (Marton), Ngati Rangi Community Health Centre (Ohakune) and Te Puke Karanga Hauora (Raetihi) are helping to get the message out. 1,679 Māori in the Whanganui region are eligible for the programme.


Video - How to do the National Bowel Screening Programme test - courtesy of timetoscreen.nz

Video - Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall shares a personal story to encourage bowel cancer screening.


Media release - Minister promotes start of bowel screening in Whanganui 

Media release - Mayor Hamish McDouall has special reason to advocate for test that saves lives

Media release - National Bowel Screening Programme launched in Whanganui

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