Couple cite need for screening

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 29/12/2012

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A Christchurch couple who helped run a "pioneer" bowel-screening programme in the city four years ago are frustrated a national version is not being rolled out sooner.

Derek and Lynn Anderson lost their 46-year-old daughter to cancer this year.

Lisa Mitchell died from ovarian cancer in June after the disease was not found until it had spread to her bowel.

The Andersons have advocated for a national bowel-screening programme for more than four years after helping their Rotary club run a pilot programme in Christchurch in 2008.

"One person dies every seven hours from bowel cancer," Derek Anderson said.

"It's 15 hours for breast cancer and 20 hours for road deaths, but you hear so much more about those. We thought we'd do something about this."

The programme involved GPs in Redcliffs and Riccarton sending letters to 800 patients aged between 55 and 65, with no previous history of bowel cancer, encouraging them to buy a self-testing kit from the clinic for $5.

He said 387 people bought kits.

Forty-six tests came back with a positive result, requiring a colonoscopy for further investigation.

"We found a few cancers," Anderson said.

The Government last year decided to start a pilot bowel-screening programme in the Waitemata district, but a national programme was still several years away.

The Ministry of Health-led pilot would run for four years, offering bowel screening to people aged 50 to 74 who were eligible for publicly funded healthcare.

Anderson said early intervention was the best way to save lives, and the screening programme needed to be rolled out across the country as soon as possible.

"I'd like the trial to be sped up, but I know it's a matter of finance."

There was also shortage of doctors who could perform colonoscopies and remove any growths found in the bowel, he said.

He called for more training for health professionals, including training nurses to perform the tests.

Lynne Anderson said she was pleased the pilot was happening, but wondered how many people would die while it was completed.

SIGN: Recognising bowel cancer Bowel cancer – also known as colorectal cancer or colon cancer – is any cancer affecting the colon and rectum. Most bowel cancers start as benign growths, called polyps, on the wall of the bowel. They do not produce symptoms and most are not pre-cancerous. Up to 75 per cent of bowel cancer is curable if caught early.

SYMPTOMS INCLUDE: Rectal bleeding without any obvious reason. Change in bowel habits, such as going to the toilet more often or having looser stools for several weeks. Abdominal pain. Lumps or mass in the stomach. Weight loss. Tiredness.

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