| 10 Mar 2021

Take the bowel screening test - It could save your life

The National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP) was launched in the South Canterbury region just over four months ago. The free bowel screening programme is already making a difference for South Canterbury residents and their families.

Dr Thomas Caspritz, Clinical Lead for the South Canterbury DHB National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP), said its early days but our results for the first few months of the programme seem to be tracking really well with a participation rate as at 8 March of 57%, only 3% off the national target of 60% participation.

1,084 South Canterbury people have chosen to take part by using the discreet, simple and clean to use home test kit where a small sample of bowel motion is collected on a test stick, placed in a sample tube and returned via freepost for testing.

From these, over 1,000 returned tests have shown a negative result, which gives peace of mind for these residents, and their families. 50 tests have come back as positive for the presence of blood. Everyone who has had a positive test result is contacted by their GP/NP to arrange further investigation such as a colonoscopy or CTC. So far 25 people referred for a colonoscopy and bowel polyps were found in 24 out of the 25 colonoscopies completed and we have others booked in for upcoming procedures. To date there have been no cancers diagnosed.

“Being able to identify and treat bowel polyps at an early stage is already changing people’s lives for the better, as almost always bowel cancer develops out of bowel polyps. Bowel cancer is often a symptomless disease, that’s why screening is so important, it could save your life. The home testing kit can detect bowel cancer and bowel polyps early as it’s designed to pick up tiny traces of blood in a bowel motion. Bowel cancers found through National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP) are often in early stages, and can be successfully treated and often be cured”, said Dr Caspritz.

Currently there’s over 1,000 test kits still to be completed out in the community and we encourage people to return their tests. We found approximately 3% of test kits were spoiled. Tests need to be re-done for a range of reasons including not having the correct label attached, the consent form not being filled out correctly, or the sample not reaching the laboratory within the required seven days.

“We are keen to raise awareness of how simple and easy these test kits are to use, and how important it is to take part, whilst also educating people of the bowel cancer symptoms. The more people that take part in the programme, the more of a difference we can make”, said Dr Caspritz.

The South Canterbury DHB staff, patients and our primary care and community health providers are absolutely delighted to see the bowel screening programme already making a difference in South Canterbury. By the end of the first two years of the programme around 12,000 people in the region, aged 60 to 74, will be invited to complete a home testing kit. Around 350-400 people will have potentially cancerous polyps (growths) removed during this time and 30 cancers are expected to be found over the two years and hundreds of people will have potentially cancerous polyps (growths) removed.

Anyone of any age – not just those aged between 60-74 years, please see your doctor now if you have any bowel symptoms that concern you.


More information about the National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP)

  • The National Bowel Screening Programme (NBSP) is now available in the South Canterbury region
  • It is free of charge for people aged 60 to 74 years of age who are eligible for public healthcare
  • Invitations to participate are sent through the mail, followed by a test kit. Please ensure your contact details are up to date at your GP, so you don’t miss out
  • The kits are easy and simple to do, and samples are returned by mail for testing
  • People will be sent an invitation around the time of their birthdate:
    • If you have an even birthdate (e.g. 2nd, 14th, 26th of the month) you will receive your invitation between now and October 2021
    • If you have an odd birthday (e.g. 3rd ,15th, 27th of the month) you will receive your invitation between October 2021 and October 2022
    • Those turning 60 will receive an invitation around the time of their birthday, regardless of their birthdate
  • For more information visit timetoscreen.nz or call freephone 0800 924 432.

Karen Berry
NBSP Communication and Media Coordinator

021 139 7442.