25 May 2016

Hopes for bowel cancer screening in Budget

9:50 am on 25 May 2016

Hopes are high in the health sector that an announcement will be made in the Budget tomorrow about wider screening for bowel cancer.

Samples of a colon biopsy to be sent to a laboratory, at Diaconesses Croix Saint-Simon Hospital, Paris, France (2009).

Samples of a colon biopsy to be sent to a laboratory. Photo: A. BENOIST / BSIP

Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer, and kills about 1200 people a year.

The Ministry of Health Ministry has estimated screening could reduce deaths by at least 16 to 22 percent, in the population offered screening, after 8 to 10 years of screening.

Patient groups and others have campaigned for years for national screening, but appear willing to accept a staged approach to a national roll-out, with a go-ahead to individual district health boards considered most ready to take it on.

A successful pilot programme in Waitemata will end late next year and the government is under pressure to say what the next step will be.

Sources said national screening remains challenging, both because of the cost and the high demand on existing colonoscopy services.

However, they said some district health boards were managing demands for colonoscopy better and may get the go-ahead.

The Gastroenterology Society said more work is needed on quality standards to oversee screening, however it is provided in the future.