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Well caught . . . Clinical lead for the National Bowel Screening Programme in South Canterbury Dr Thomas Caspritz and clinical nurse specialist Bronny Mackenzie (right) catch up with patient Heather MacDonald. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

by Claire Allison

Early-stage bowel cancer has been detected in nine people in the first year of bowel screening in South Canterbury, and nearly 200 people have returned positive results, requiring further investigation.

National Bowel Screening Programme South Canterbury clinical lead Dr Thomas Caspritz said in the past year, more than 6300 South Canterbury people between 60 and 74 years old had taken part by using the home test kit.

The test kit involves collecting a small sample of bowel motion on a test stick, placing it in a sample tube and returning it via freepost for testing.

By mid this month, early-stage bowel cancer had been detected in nine people and 194 people had returned positive results, meaning a small trace of blood was found in their sample, which required further investigation.

Dr Caspritz said so far, 140 people in the region had had bowel screening colonoscopies and adenomatous polyps were detected and removed in a high number of the colonoscopies – as these could become cancerous over time.

“There can be no doubt the programme is life-changing for the South Canterbury residents who have had adenomatous polyps removed or actual cancers detected,” he said.

Multiple people had also been placed on the South Canterbury District Health Board’s surveillance pathway for monitoring.

Dr Caspritz said screening could save lives by helping find cancer early, when it could often be successfully treated.

South Canterbury had recorded a participation rate of 68% – 8% above the national target of 60% participation; the Maori participation rate was 62% and the Pacifica rate 57%.

“We’re delighted with these results and these demonstrate the tangible effects of this programme.”