The Ministry of Health has completed its first evaluation of a pilot bowel cancer screening programme underway at Waitemata DHB. Since the beginning of 2012, Waitemata residents aged 50 to 74 have been offered free screening. They provide a stool sample and if any blood is detected, they are then referred for a colonoscopy. The Ministry's evaluation shows that in the first 18 months 95 bowel cancer cases were picked up, as well as more than a thousand pre-cancerous conditions such as polyps. It says a nationwide screening programme of this kind would cost 39 million dollars a year. Dr Susan Parry, Clinical Director, Bowel Cancer Programme, Ministry of Health and Dr Sarah Derrett of Bowel Cancer New Zealand, who says it is outrageous that there is still no national screening programme, which would save hundreds of lives each year.