12 Aug 2008

Bowel cancer screening programme brought forward

5:59 pm on 12 August 2008

A pilot programme to screen for bowel cancer will start next year and a national programme will be introduced in 2011 - three years earlier than previously announced, says the Governmment.

A taskforce has been set up to look at the development of the programme and make recommendations on how to improve treatment.

Bowel cancer is New Zealand's second-deadliest cancer, claiming about 1200 lives a year. About 1500 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year.

In May, the Government announced that screening would be available by 2014, but it is planning to bring in the programme more quickly.

Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor says the taskforce will oversee the development of a national screening programme and ensure a workforce is ready to begin the programme at the end of 2011.

The Government's decision to introduce bowel cancer screening was criticised by the National Party last month, which said it was timed for an election year.