The Cancer Society is calling for Māori and Pacific New Zealanders to get free bowel cancer screening from the age of 50 – a step it says will save lives.
The society’s position will put more pressure on the Government to make a change that advocates say is badly needed, because bowel cancer generally strikes those groups earlier in life.
Dr Chris Jackson, the cancer society’s medical director and an oncologist, said it strongly endorsed calls for screening to start from an earlier age, particularly for Māori and Pacific.
“We are asking the government to commit to extending bowel cancer screening to those aged 50-59, with priority given to Māori and Pacific people,” he told the Herald.
“Māori and Pacific participation in decision-making should be enhanced across all aspects of the programme’s planning and implementation.”
Bowel cancer (also called colon, rectal or colorectal) kills more than 1200 New Zealanders every year – more than breast and prostate cancer combined.
Early detection is critical to chances of survival, but the disease can be symptomless and others can be reluctant to act when they appear.
For this reason, health authorities piloted a free screening programme in Waitematā DHB from 2012. West and North Aucklanders aged 50 to 74 years were invited to send in faecal testing kits that detect tiny traces of blood that may signal pre- or bowel cancer. If positive, a colonoscopy is done.
Lives were saved and the previous National-led Government pledged almost $200 million to extend it nationally by June 2021. The roll-out is at the halfway point, with 10 of 20 DHBs offering screening.