September 28, 2023

Media Release Bowel Cancer NZ

Years of advocacy for the screening age to be lowered by Bowel Cancer New Zealand has resulted in a commitment from both major political parties to bring bowel screening from 45 years old.

The charity welcomes the news from last night’s leaders’ debate as it will save many lives, especially with the rising incidence of bowel cancer in younger people. Bowel cancer is 90 per cent curable if caught early, and screening is an effective way of doing this.

Stefan Corbett, the Chair of Bowel Cancer New Zealand, says, “This is fantastic news and will mean fewer lives lost to this silent killer. However, the priority is for bowel screening to be fully implemented for Māori and Pasifika from age 50. The rollout is underway but is taking too long and needs to be sped up to avoid further inequities.”

A commitment to lowering the bowel screening age is only the first step. The incoming government needs to set out a clear fiscal and workforce plan for implementing this.

Professor Frank Frizelle, a Bowel Cancer NZ medical advisor, says, “Bowel cancer is increasing dramatically in those aged under 50, in New Zealand and around the world, for unknown reasons. As the risk factors for the increase are as yet unknown, screening and symptom awareness are the best tools we have to reduce the impact of this trend. So the agreement for those aged 45 to be able to be screened is extremely important.”

There is no debate – lowering the screening age will save countless lives through early detection.

Stage 4 bowel cancer patient Aimee-Rose Yates, 30, who was present at the leader’s debate, says, “The thing is for me, it’s a start, but unfortunately, I was diagnosed when I was 29. There will be more and more people like me who will continue getting diagnosed and will keep dying. Dropping the screening age will save lives; the ball is rolling – let’s get it done!”

In a social post, Patrick Gower, last night’s moderator, said the debate was for any families out there affected by bowel cancer.

“Last night it was super special that both leaders committed to bringing down the bowel cancer screening age. It is going to save a lot of Kiwi lives and a lot of heartache. Caught early, bowel cancer can be beaten, and earlier screening gives people a fighting chance. Anything we can do to stop this cruel disease is crucial,” says Gower.