When the bowel screening programme rolled out in the MidCentral DHB (MDHB) region, Stephen Paewai paid attention. Having his father pass away from bowel cancer meant he was well aware of the ferociousness of the disease, which is the second highest cause of cancer death in New Zealand

So when the kit arrived in his letterbox, Mr Paewai knew he would be taking part.

“I wasn’t hesitant to do it but I did procrastinate a bit. It’s not something anyone would be jumping out of their seats to do, but it is so important to get it done,” he said.

Mr Paewai is a well-known community figure in the Tararua district, having served on a number of boards and committees, including the Tararua Rural Education Activities Programme (REAP), MidCentral DHB’s Consumer Council and Rangitāne o Tamaki nui a Rua.

Once the test was completed, and he discovered how quick and easy it was, he realised many others who had received the kit were probably putting it off in the same way he had.

“I’m passionate about Māori health and getting our Māori populations to take their health seriously. Bowel cancer has higher rates amongst Māori and Pasifika peoples, but we have this simple and quick test now sent out directly to us that can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Mr Paewai said he wanted everyone to know about the test and how crucial it was to do.

“Everyone has a part to play in this because we all have friends and whānau that are of the age range. And we need to encourage each and every one of them to do their test.”

He hoped through kōrero with others in the community about how easy the test was to do, he would encourage others to do theirs.

The screening test detects traces of blood in a bowel motion (poo), which can be caused by polyps (growths) or haemorrhoids (piles), as well as cancer.

Bowel screening is being offered to 29,000 people aged between 60 and 74 in the MDHB region over the first two years of the programme. People aged 60-74 should get their test kit in the post within four months of their birthday in year one (2020) or year two (2021) of the programme starting in the MidCentral region. People who will turn 75 before they are scheduled to be invited will receive a kit prior to their 75th birthday to ensure they can participate in at least one round of screening.

The National Bowel Screening programme started in July 2017, with MDHB being the 10th DHB to roll out the programme in 2019. Once the national programme is fully implemented across the whole country, more than 700,000 people aged between 60-74 years will be invited to take part in screening every two years.

For more information on the National Bowel Screening Programme, go to www.timetoscreen.nz or free phone 0800 924 432.

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